New York Cobblestone Construction

March 30, 2010

Carl Crumley
Summary Author:
Carl Crumley

Glacial cobblestones were used in building construction in upstate New York during the middle of the 19th century. When the last ice sheets receded, millions of small stones remained that were ground smooth beneath the mass of the glaciers. Pioneer settlers to upstate New York cleared their fields of these stones and used them primarily in the construction of homes and foundations for barns. In upstate New York, there are hundreds of mid-nineteenth century barns with stone foundations still standing today. However, only ten commercial buildings are known to have been constructed of cobblestones. The building shown above (at top) dating from 1841 is one of them. Located in West Bloomfield, New York, it was the former home of the Ontario and Livingston Mutual Insurance Company and is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Its cobblestone construction is quite unusual since it uses smaller stones than normally selected and progressively smaller stones are placed toward the top of the building. Normal cobblestone construction techniques used three courses of stones per quoin (the square corner blocks), but this building has around 8 courses of stone per quoin near the bottom and up to 12 nearer the top. The bottom photo shows the Auburn Railroad Pump House in Fishers, New York (built around 1845), which exhibits more usual cobblestone construction. Photos taken on March 18, 2010.