Sandstone Facade (Part One)

Arguably one of the most unique features of the El Moore is its hand-cut red sandstone facade.   It’s a material that was used in other AC Varney-designed buildings of its era; the sandstone is often inserted above a main entrance or around a protruding bay window where it could be carved with intricate details as a feature, almost like jewelry.  At the El Moore at 624 W. Alexandrine, the entire facade is red sandstone; most likely Jacobsville sandstone mined in the Keweenaw region of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and brought to local docks along the Detroit River by boat.   Front Facade Much like Detroit, with its rich history of manufacturing might and quick cycles of boom and bust, the Keweenaw region has a fascinating history centered around copper mining and for a short period of time (1870s-1900) the sandstone quarries created their own economy.  Whole towns grew up overnight, supporting schools, churches, businesses, railways, mills and shipping ports.  Unlike copper, which has countless uses and a high value even to this day, the demand for sandstone was driven by an architectural aesthetics that rose and faded from popularity as quickly then as they do today.  As architectural demand for sandstone quickly diminished, so did the towns and industries that surrounded the quarries. Active Sandstone QuarrySandstone DocksSandstone Quarry Workers There’s far too much information about the sandstone used in the El Moore to cover completely here, but the folks that maintain have created an incredible resource to document these stories, and perusing the site is a great way to learn more about this period of time in Michigan’s history.