Stories in Stone: Travels Through Urban Geology (Hardcover)
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, facades, 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.
“David B. Williams can see the invisible. He notices the lost dramas fossilized in brownstones and statues, in the doorsteps and roof slates we walk by every day. Only such an operatic theme as the enduring grandeur of stone could encompass in a single book everything from Martian meteorites to school blackboards to dinosaur tracks. Williams's epic story is rich in colorful eccentrics, from Michelangelo to Robinson Jeffers, but no character comes alive more vividly than the restless, creative Earth itself.”
—Michael Sims, author of Apollo's Fire and Adam's Navel
“From the Bunker Hill Monument in Boston to the Colosseum in Rome, David Williams distills gripping stories from building stone—of deep geologic time and the human quest for permanence and beauty.”—Chet Raymo, author The Path: A One-Mile Walk Through the Universe
“This is the best sort of book, one that makes you see the familiar in strange new light. Now that David Williams has warmed our stone façades with beautifully told stories, never again will I pass a brownstone without looking for its telltale flaws or walk the Granite City without thinking of the natural wonders that produced its stony poetry.”
—Jennifer Ackerman, author of Sex Sleep Eat Drink Dream: A Day in the Life of Your Body
"By assigning human stories and values to stone in this fascinating book, David B. Williams links the living and the non-living. In the process, our homes and buildings come alive."—Robert M. Thorson, author of Beyond Walden and Stone by Stone