Stone Crusher Buildings

Written and Narrated By Olivia Fottrell, Cooperstown Museum Studies Graduate Program, SUNY Oneonta, Researched in 2023.

Along the former and present railroad tracks which run parallel to the Mohawk River are two stone crusher buildings, each built in 1906.

The first stone crusher, located on the opposite side of the river, was constructed by The John Pierce Stone Company north of the Mohawk River. That four-story tall concrete structure was built nearby The John Pierce Stone Company’s quarry on the “Burnt Rocks.” Tragedy struck The John Pierce Stone Company on November 7th, 1909, just three short years after the plant’s construction. A short circuiting of wires caused a large fire which destroyed the stone crushing plant. Due to the remote location, and the building’s distance from a water line, fire fighters were not able to get to the plant in time to save it. After this, the plant was reconstructed immediately in the same location. 

Here, we are standing in front of the second stone crusher, constructed by the Little Falls Stone Company on the south side of the Mohawk. Each of the stone crusher plants was built just below a quarry from which rocks were extracted and processed. At the time of their construction, these two plants were the largest of their kind in the world.

The location of these plants in Little Falls created unique challenges for both companies; Little Falls is well known for being rich with minerals like Quartz, or “Herkimer Diamonds.” However, the unique combination of hard minerals like Quartz, Calcite, and Dolomite embedded within Dolostone and Syenite rock creates a much harder stone than what can typically be found in the region. Each of the stone crusher plants was then tasked with carving and processing much harder stone than their competitors across New York State to produce high-quality, dolostone-based concrete. This dolostone is a preferred stone for construction materials due to its higher strength and hardness compared to other stones, making it ideal for use in paving roads, or creating a strong foundation for buildings. 

These stone crushers made possible the process of transforming stone into pieces small enough for construction

These stone crushers made possible the process of transforming stone into pieces small enough for construction by processing, storing, and loading crushed stone into railroad cars where they were then transported to their destination. First, large pieces of stone are carved from the quarry. Two 105-foot-tall towers supported large buckets that traveled between the quarry and the stone crusher buildings, depositing the large rock pieces to be crushed onto the top floor of these huge rectangular silos. The plant then took advantage of gravity to assist the stone crushing process. Each of the four floors of the plant possessed stone crushers which ground the stone into smaller pieces. As the stone was ground on the top floor, the pieces would eventually become small enough to pass through holes in the floor to the level below, where the stone would be ground again to a smaller size. 

This process continued until the stone pieces became small enough to drop to the final level, where they were stored until they could be deposited into a train car. On the ground floor, two sets of rail tracks ran through each building. 

As a freight train passed through the base of the building, stone pieces were released from above to fill up the car where they were then transported to their destination. The crushed stone could then be used to create concrete, which helped to surface roads and construct buildings in Little Falls and beyond.

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