Tuesday, December 15, 2009

A Step Above, Well, Steps...

Marble steps became status symbols for Baltimorean's in the early 1900's. Despite the challenge of keeping them white, they ornament the face of many rowhomes and city buildings. Such prominent buildings that exhibit this fancy mineral are:
• Countless stone steps in Baltimore City, Md.
• City Hall, Baltimore, Md.
• Columns of Towson Court House, Towson, Md.
• Eutaw Place Baptist Church, Baltimore, Md.
• The Peabody Institute, Baltimore, Md.
• Loyola College, Baltimore, Md.
• University of Maryland Arts and Science Building at College Park, Md.
• 108 columns for the Capitol in Washington, D.C.
• U.S. Post Office, Washington, D.C.
• Part of Washington Monument, Washington, D.C.
• Girard College, Philadelphia, Pa.
• The Drexel Building, Philadelphia, Pa.
• Part of Fisher Building, Detroit, Michigan
• The Spires of St. Patrick’s Cathedral, New York City
• Metropolitan Club, New York City

(1953, November). Tells of Two Industries That Flourished in this Area Many Years Ago. The Towson Topics. Baltimore, Maryland, USA.


Marble steps became more than just a decorative fixture to Baltimore’s unique architecture design, they were a vital piece that endorsed neighborhood involvement. Before fenced in back yards became the norm, marble steps were a central gathering spot for neighbors to come together, relax, converse, and most importantly, get to know each other. Knowing who lived on your block promoted these residents to be involved in their community.

People got to know each other sitting on their front stoops. Some became friends. As a result of marble steps, people communicated with their fellow neighbors. They were more likely to look out for each other’s homes, consequently reducing crimes such as vandalism, theft, and property destruction. Similarly, the neighborhood children viewed their neighbors as disciplinary figures, just as they would their parents and teachers. They were aware of the possibility that someone was watching and could report their deeds to mom and dad later.

(Picture courtesy of Google Images)

On any given day (usually Saturdays) you could find housewives scrubbing the previous week's grime off their marble steps. Everyone had their own concoction for getting their steps the whitest, but the most famous cleaner was Bon Ami. Mixing Bon Ami powder with a bucket of warm water, one would scrub the marble either with a pumice stone or a metal bristle brush until they glowed!

Homeowners took pride in their clean steps and it was often a competition to see who could get and keep theirs the whitest. Some went as far as to put signs up to “Please Keep Off Steps” while others would throw blankets over them during the winter months, almost as if to shelter them from the cold.

Today you may purchase a marble cleaning kit at the Hometown Girl store in Baltimore, which contains a bag of Bon Ami powder, a piece of pumice, and a list of instructions. Unfortunately, they do not have a website, but are located at 1001 W. 36th St., Hampden, Baltimore, MD, 21211.

Below is a great video I found on You Tube about a girl named Megan Hildebrandt who is trying to revive the tradition of marble step scrubbing in Baltimore city.

(Video courtesy of www.youtube.com)

Schmidt, J. (1963, Feburary 24). Our Famous White Steps:Status Symbols. Baltimore Sunday Sun Magazine. Baltimore, Maryland, USA: A.S. Abell Co.

Quarry photos

(Image courtesy of Sunday Sun Magazine)
Quarrying began around 1815 in the Beaver Dam Swim Club. Back then, it was called the Taylor and Scott quarries. Quality of marble varies, and the marble extracted from Taylor and Scott quarry was considered to be one of the very best. It was used as a building stone because of its hardness and splendid color.

The Scott Taylor quarry employed anywhere from 200-250 men from 1880-1900. Before machines were designed to extract the marble, workers, mainly Irish immigrants, did it by hand using ordinary tools such as hand drills, hammers and chisels. After it was loaded into wagons, oxen hauled these wagons a mile away to the Cockeysville rail line to be shipped out. New equipment was introduced such as derricks, shovels, drills with diamond bits, and cutters after 1866, which made the process of mining the mineral a lot easier.

(Image courtesy of Sunday Sun Magazine)

The demand for marble plummeted as cement and concrete were introduced in the early part of the twentieth century. The last project that was constructed of its eminent marble was the Arts and Science building at the University of Maryland at College Park. After downsizing to about 30 employees, Taylor and Scott shut down in 1934. Equipment was hauled away and pumps were shut off, allowing spring water to fill the pit.

Beaver Dam Swim Club opened in 1936. People paid 25 cents to swim in the sparkling clean spring water. Beaver Dam still exists today. Standing on approximately 25 acres, the swim club offers pools, beach area, volleyball courts, basketball court, snack bar, numerous picnic tables and grills, and free parking. For adventurous swimmers, there is a Tarzan swing and cliffs to jump off of.

(Image provided by Beaver Dam Swimming Club)

Schmidt, J. (1963, Feburary 24). Our Famous White Steps:Status Symbols. Baltimore Sunday Sun Magazine. Baltimore, Maryland, USA: A.S. Abell Co.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Baltimore and Susquehanna RR marble track bed

(Image courtesy of Flikr)
This marker was put up by the Maryland Historical Trust and Maryland Transit Administration.

The inscription reads:
"Marble blocks from Cockeysville area quarries were used in 1836 to bed the track for this section of the Baltimore and Susquehanna. One of the nation's earliest commercial railroads. Revealed during construction of the MTA Light Rail, the marble track bed represents an early British experimental railroad technology that was only briefly used in the U. S. The B&S RR opened a corridor between central Pennsylvania and Baltimore, strategically drawing commerce away from Philadelphia. Rail transport helped make Cockeysville marble one of Baltimore County's most important 19th century industrial products."

Geologic Walking Tour

(Map courtesy of Maryland Geological Survey)

This map shows the route of a Geologic Walking Tour of Building Stones of Downtown Baltimore, Maryland. I stumbbled across it while surfing the web today. The walking tour sounds interesting & could have been very beneficial to my research. On their website it briefly discusses several buildings they tour, such as City Hall, that were constructed from marble extracted from the Beaver Dam quarry in Cockeysville. I would have considered doing it earlier in the semester when I had more time & the weather was milder!is faced with Cockeysvlle Marble from the Beaver Dam Quarry in Baltimore County.

Today I contacted Beaver Dam via email requesting either an interview, documents, pictures, or any helpful information they can offer me regarding the history of their quarry. I'm crossing my fingers & kicking myself for not thinking to do this a few weeks back! Will keep you posted...

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Taylor and Scott Quarries A.K.A. "Beaver Dam"

This is a map of where Beaver Dam is located in Cockeysville. It was formally known as Taylor and Scott Quarries.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009


Melanie was kind enough to share the following YouTube video with me, as well as walk me through the steps of posting and resizing it to fit my page. She really is quite amazing with technology. Thanks again Melanie!

Video courtesy of YouTube