Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Pg. 99: David B. Williams' "Stories in Stone"

The current feature at the Page 99 Test: Stories in Stone: Travels through Urban Geology by David B. Williams.

About the book, from the publisher:
Within the fabric of every stone building is a wondrous story of geological origins, architectural aesthetics, and cultural history.

You probably don’t expect to make geological finds along the sidewalks of a major city, but when natural history writer David B. Williams looks at the stone masonry, façades, and ornamentations of buildings, he sees a range of rocks equal to any assembled by plate tectonics. In Stories in Stone, he introduces us to a three-and-a-half-billion-year-old rock called Morton gneiss that is the color of swirled pink-and-black taffy; a 1935 gas station made of petrified wood; and a fort in St. Augustine, Florida, that has withstood three hundred years of attacks and hurricanes, despite being made of a stone (coquina) that has the consistency of a granola bar.

Williams shows us why a white, fossil-rich limestone from Indiana became the only building stone to be used in all fifty states; how the construction of the granite Bunker Hill Monument in 1825 led to America’s first commercial railroad; and why Carrara marble—the favorite sculpting material of Michelangelo— warped so much after only nineteen years on a Chicago skyscraper that all forty-four thousand panels of the stone had to be replaced. From Brooklyn to Philadephia, from limestone to travertine, Stories in Stone will inspire readers to realize that, even in the most modern metropolis, evidence of our planet’s natural wonders can be found all around us in building stones that are far less ordinary than we might think at first glance.
Read descriptions of Stories in Stone's ten chapters, and learn more about the author and his work at David B. Williams' website and blog.

The Page 99 Test: Stories in Stone.

--Marshal Zeringue