In conjunction with Visit Bloomington's Limestone Month of events, Wylie House Museum is proud to exhibit a small portion of a previously unknown collection of more than 15,000 black and white photographs discovered in a dilapidated house owned by the Indiana Limestone Company in Bedford, Ind. These images of residences, churches, universities, museums, businesses, and public and municipal buildings, many of which were designed by prominent architects, document the use of Indiana limestone throughout the United States from the late 1800s to mid-1900s.
The Indiana Geological Survey, an institute of Indiana University, proposed a two-year project to preserve and make this hidden collection publicly available. Remarkably holistic in scope, these photographs and their accompanying metadata can be studied across major humanities disciplines such as American history, architectural history, history of technology, urban studies, history of photography, historic preservation, labor history, and the history of geology. The Indiana Limestone Photograph Collection (ILPC) will be cataloged, digitized, archived, and made accessible through Indiana University Libraries Image Collection Online (ICO) website.
Indiana limestone is the premiere architectural building stone. It is quarried only in a very narrow strip of south-central Indiana known as the “Stone Belt.” Officially trademarked as the “Nation’s Building Stone,” it has been extensively used in commercial, municipal, educational, and residential building projects across the nation and in major cities like Chicago, New York, and Washington, D.C. Known for its particular strength, durability, and ageless beauty, it has contributed to some of the most iconic works of American architecture—the Empire State Building, National Cathedral, Pentagon, Biltmore House, and Grand Central Terminal—as well as to many smaller-scale public buildings throughout the United States such as state capitol buildings and the Carnegie libraries. It is estimated that 50 to 75 percent of all limestone buildings in the country are built with Indiana limestone.