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Colorado’s pride and joy: Yule marble

Did you know Colorado's state rock is Yule marble?

The United States is a nation blessed with an abundance of natural resources. From sea to shining sea, it holds deep reserves of every type of natural resource you can think of, from oil and coal to wildlife and – yes – natural stone.

There are many storied stones in the history of the US – Indiana limestone, for example, which was used to create iconic structures like the Empire State Building and the Pentagon. Alongside this revered rock, you can put Yule marble, which is responsible for monuments like the Tomb of the Unknowns in Arlington National Cemetery and the Lincoln Memorial. 

The Colorado Yule Marble Quarry

In 2004, after a petition was submitted by a Girl Scout troop from Lakewood, the Colorado legislature and then-Governor Bill Owens officially declared Yule Marble the Colorado State Rock. This decision had its roots in the discovery of marble at Yule Creek over a century prior. 

What made – and indeed, continues to make – Yule marble stand out from other types of stone and even other kinds of marble is its unblemished white appearance. Yule marble is comprised of nearly pure calcite, giving it what the Colorado state government calls a "luminous quality".

It originally began to be formed 350 million years ago, when the remains of the many organisms living in the warm and shallow equatorial waters of Colorado piled up on the ocean floor, fossilizing. Over time, the resulting limestone metamorphozed into marble. 

Though some tentative quarrying took place when the marble was discovered in the late 1870s, it was only in 1905 that the real work began. Colonel Channing Meek raised $3 million – an enormous number for the time – to bankroll what would become the Colorado Yule Marble Quarry. 

Unfortunately, the operation suffered several setbacks, including the destruction of the marble fabricating mill by a massive snow-slide in 1912, the death of Colonel Meek later that summer and an enormous blaze in 1925. The quarry would close in 1941. 

However, in 1990 the quarry was reopened and, despite changing ownership frequently, runs to this day. 

Yule marble's progeny

The fineness and beauty of Yule marble has meant it's served as the material for countless structures. Unsurprisingly, many Colorado buildings use it, such as in the floor and stairs of the Colorado State Capitol or the Old Denver Post Office. 

But Yule marble features in structures all across America, from Los Angeles (the Pan-American Building) to Montana (the State Capitol). Out of these, perhaps the most and lasting and famous structure is located in the national capital. 

Becoming the stone of the Lincoln Memorial

Samples of Yule marble had been exhibited at the Colombia Exposition in 1893, where they achieved some publicity. Still, it was one of only several types of marble – alongside Georgia's Cherokee marble, Vermont's Dorset White marble and others – submitted for the memorial in 1913, and was little known at that point. 

Henry Bacon, the memorial's architect, chose Yule marble because he believed it "immeasurably superior" to the other four. This choice was met with some controversy at the time.

What followed was a grueling assessment process, involving the Denver chemical laboratory submitting a statement about the stone's purity, an analysis of existing Yule marble-made buildings with cracks, and testimony by geologist George P. Merrill. Even then, the authorizing official only approved the decision months later after hearing further testimony, receiving a recommendation from the Fine Arts Commission and seeing test results from the Bureau of Standards. Ultimately though, the Yule marble was chosen, and was used for all of the memorial's exterior marble.

Part of the reason for this drawn-out process was concerns about the durability of the marble against weathering. It would've been handy for the Lincoln Memorial Commission if they'd had modern tools of marble protection at their disposal back then.

As it was, they had to simply have faith that the tests they carried out would be right. And they were – while the marble in the memorial has deteriorated, it has not suffered huge cracking or anything significant to this day. 

Unlike the Commission, you don't need to cross your fingers and pray. Use Dry-Treat's STAIN-PROOF Original™ to keep your marble safe from weather effects.

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