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“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”

Portland in Middlesex County, Connecticut — The American Northeast (New England)
 

Portland Brownstone

 
 
Portland Brownstone Marker image. Click for full size.
By Michael Herrick, September 19, 2019
1. Portland Brownstone Marker
Inscription.  
Portland: “A History Carved in Brownstone”
Early colonists in Connecticut gazed across to the eastern shore of the big bend in the Connecticut River at the outcroppings of reddish-brown sandstone. Little did they know that this stone would soon become a major part of Portland's history and of the building industry of the entire nation. The brownstone was formed as layers of sediment filled the rift valley in the eastern United States, a result of the breakup of Pangea. Dinosaur footprints were preserved in the sediment, evidence of life which had once roamed in this area.

Settlers, eager to use the stone, crafted walls, chimneys, and tombstones. By the late 1600's areas residents, uncertain about the supply of brownstone, began to limit its removal.

Over the next century, as the stone became valued as a resource, the quarrying industry developed and local restrictions were lifted. As time progressed and potential amounts of stone were recognized, three quarry companies claimed ownership to the quarries land. This was the beginning of the brownstone era.

Throughout the 1800's, brownstones
Portland Brownstone Marker image. Click for full size.
By Michael Herrick, September 19, 2019
2. Portland Brownstone Marker
Panoramic view from Brainerd Quarry Co. looking north to the Middlesex Quarry Co. Notice the depth of the quarries, the workers and the steam run power plant. (Compliments of Jack Dillon)
( detail from the marker )
dominant force shaped the character of the Town. As the lands were quarried, immigrant workers from Ireland and Sweden made Portland their home. These immigrants were needed due to the increased demand from urban areas like New York City, Boston, and Philadelphia for building materials. Brownstone row houses satisfied the need for housing in these cities. As the stones popularity grew, it was also used in the construction of public buildings, homes and universities.

Portland quarry companies purchased schooners built by Portland's shipbuilding industry for transporting this fashionable building material down the Connecticut River. By the mid 1800's steam locomotives replaced the oxen and sling used for years to transport the brownstone to the river for shipping.

As the 20th century approached, new technology and ideas replaced the old. In the building industry, styles were changing. Architects and builders experimented with height in multiple level dwellings and office buildings. Other materials such as steel and concrete replaced brownstone. The popularity of brownstone declined. The faltering brownstone industry met with further disaster when the record high flood of 1936 filled the quarries with water. Despite efforts to recover the quarries, the 1938 hurricane devastated any hopes as the waters once again buried quarry equipment and buildings. Over the
Portland Brownstone Marker image. Click for full size.
By Michael Herrick, September 19, 2019
3. Portland Brownstone Marker
Hartford’s Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Arch, Hartford, CT, dedicated on December 17, 1886, made of Portland brownstone.

An aerial view of the Portland quarries taken by Jack Dillon in May 1964.
( detail from the marker )
years, quarrying efforts removed an estimated 10,000,000 cubic yards of brownstone from Portland's quarries.

The site sat for almost 50 years until 1994, when a small quarrying establishment, Portland Brownstone Quarries Inc., was opened. This company supplied brownstone to meet the demands of restoration work of buildings at universities, historic landmarks, and churches in large cities such as New York and Boston until 2012.

As a National Historic Landmark, Portland's brownstone quarries are a monument to the industry that once flourished in the Town. Today, many people enjoy the quarries unique setting while swimming and playing.
 
Location. 41° 34.752′ N, 72° 38.498′ W. Marker is in Portland, Connecticut, in Middlesex County. Marker is at the intersection of Middlesex Avenue and Brownstone Avenue, on the left when traveling west on Middlesex Avenue. Touch for map. Marker is in this post office area: Portland CT 06480, United States of America. Touch for directions.
 
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within 2 miles of this marker, measured as the crow flies. Settling Middletown (approx. one mile away); Founders Rock (approx. one mile away); Commodore Thomas Macdonough (approx. one mile away); St. John Church (approx. 1.1 miles away); Middletown Upper Houses (approx. 1.1 miles away);
Portland Brownstone Marker image. Click for full size.
By Michael Herrick, September 19, 2019
4. Portland Brownstone Marker
The deKoven House (approx. 1.2 miles away); deKoven House Community Center (approx. 1.2 miles away); Cromwell World War I Monument (approx. 1.2 miles away).
 
Regarding Portland Brownstone. The quarries have been converted into Brownstone Exploration & Discovery Park, open during the summer months.
 
Also see . . .  Brownstone Exploration & Discovery Park. (Submitted on October 7, 2019, by Michael Herrick of Southbury, Connecticut.)
 
Categories. Industry & Commerce
 
Portland Brownstone Marker image. Click for full size.
By Michael Herrick, September 19, 2019
5. Portland Brownstone Marker
Quarry Cliffs and Lakes of Brownstone Exploration & Discovery Park image. Click for full size.
By Michael Herrick, October 4, 2019
6. Quarry Cliffs and Lakes of Brownstone Exploration & Discovery Park
Brownstone Exploration & Discovery Park image. Click for full size.
By Michael Herrick, September 19, 2019
7. Brownstone Exploration & Discovery Park
The park has hiking trails and picnic areas in former quarries along the Connecticut River.
 

More. Search the internet for Portland Brownstone.
 
Credits. This page was last revised on October 7, 2019. This page originally submitted on September 28, 2019, by Michael Herrick of Southbury, Connecticut. This page has been viewed 61 times since then and 7 times this year. Photos:   1, 2, 3, 4, 5. submitted on September 28, 2019, by Michael Herrick of Southbury, Connecticut.   6, 7. submitted on October 7, 2019, by Michael Herrick of Southbury, Connecticut.
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