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Building Stones of America: 50 Years of the NIST Stone Test Wall



Paul E. Stutzman, J Raz


In 1880 the Census Office and the National Museum in Washington, DC conducted a study of building stones of the United States and collected a set of reference specimens from working quarries. This collection was merged with the Centennial Collection of US Building Stones that was first displayed at the 1876 Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia. Descriptions of producing quarries, commercial building stones, and their use in construction across the country were compiled and reported in the 10th census of the United States in 1880. This collection of stones, now augmented with building stones from other countries, was placed on display in the Smithsonian Institution. In 1942, a committee was appointed to consider whether any worthwhile use could be made of the collection. It was decided that a study of actual weathering on such a great variety of stone would yield valuable information. A plan was developed for building a test wall at the National Bureau of Standards (NBS) as a cooperative study between NBS and ASTM committee C-18 on Building Stone. Subsequently, in 1948 a test wall was constructed at the NBS site in Washington DC. The move of NBS in the middle 1960s and the occupancy of the old NBS site by the University of the District of Columbia placed the wall in jeopardy. It was moved intact in May 1977 to its present site at NBS, now the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) in Gaithersburg, Maryland. The purpose of the stone test wall is to study the performance of stone subjected to weathering. It contains 2,352 individual samples of stone, 2,032 of which are domestic stone from 47 states, and 320 are from 16 foreign countries. The wall is constructed in a mirror-image pattern with the left-wall stone set in lime mortar the right-wall stone set in lime mortar and the right-wall stone set in portland cement mortar. Over 30 distinct types of stones are represented, some of which are not commonly used for building purposes. There are many varieties of the common types used in building such as types used in building such as marble, limestone, sandstone, and granite.
Building Stones of America: 50 Years of the NIST Stone Test Wall
43 No 10


building stone, degradation, durability, weathering


Stutzman, P. and Raz, J. (2004), Building Stones of America: 50 Years of the NIST Stone Test Wall, Building Stones of America: 50 Years of the NIST Stone Test Wall, [online], (Accessed July 21, 2024)


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Created October 1, 2004, Updated February 19, 2017