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  The Minerals of New York City (2009) by John H. Betts

The Minerals of New York City


A review of the history of mining, mineral collecting and minerals found in the five boroughs of New York City

including all five boroughs of Manhattan, the Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens and Staten Island within the New York Counties of Richmond County, Queens County, Kings County, Bronx County and New York County

by John H. Betts, All Rights Reserved
This article The Minerals of New York City was originally published in Rocks & Minerals magazine, May/June 2009 issue
(Volume 84, No . 3 pages 204-252) and was awarded the 2009 Best Article in that magazine by the Friends of Mineralogy.


Introduction to The Minerals of New York City

The landscape of New York City (NYC) was arguably the most exposed and excavated area in the U.S., possibly only matched by that of Philadelphia. Bedrock was exposed for basement excavations of buildings to 30 m deep, cut-and-cover trenches passing through bedrock for subway lines, and the underground railroad, sewer, water and steam tunnels that crisscross the city. Just one example, the 1903-1913 excavation for the New York Central railroad yards under what is now Park Avenue north of Grand Central Station produced 3 million cubic yards of excavated rock. During these projects local residents interested in minerals have managed to make many mineral discoveries. Oftentimes the workers themselves were the ones that set aside a unique mineral occurrence.

Because NYC bedrock has been so thoroughly exposed, a surprising number of minerals have been found here. The current list of the minerals from New York City include 129 valid mineral species. If NYC were a single locality this number of mineral species would be impressive. But there are six diverse geologic environments found within city boundaries.

The Minerals of New York City: The excavation for the railroad tunnels north of Grand Central Station underneath Park Avenue

The excavation for the railroad tunnels north of Grand Central Station underneath Park Avenue generated 3 million cubic yards of
excavated rock. View looking SW from 42nd Street and Park Avenue on Aug. 5, 1902 Photo: J.G. Manchester

The Minerals of New York City: Subway construction in 1901 underneath Broadway at 155th Street in Manhattan.

Subway construction in 1901 underneath Broadway at 155th Street in Manhattan.

Even more surprising is that three mineral finds in New York City are among the best specimens of that mineral species found within the USA. The famous "Subway Garnet" is the largest, well developed single crystal of almandine garnet the author has seen from the USA; while the glassy yellow-green chrysoberyl found by Wallace Goold Levison frozen in quartz matrix certainly ranks among the best from the USA. Finally the well crystallized artinite specimens found on Staten Island are equal to the similar specimens found in San Benito County, California.

History

Archibald Bruce produced in 1814 the first list of New York City minerals that included minerals from Corlaer's Hook on the lower east side of Manhattan. This was a large alluvial deposit 20-50 meters deep and a mile north of the city limits at the time. The largest boulder at Corlaer's Hook measured 6 meters in length and was serpentine, possibly from the deposits between 58th and 60th Street on the west side of Manhattan (Chamberlin, 1888). In 1818 the Lyceum of Natural History of New York was founded in Manhattan and was the central scientific body for geology and mineralogy in the city. One of the Lyceum members, Issachar Cozzens, published the first reference on NYC geology in 1843, including a hand-colored map and geologic sections of Manhattan. Cozzens also donated 49 mineral specimens from NYC to the Lyceum in 1843. The Lyceum's name was changed in 1876 to the New York Academy of Sciences (NYAS) and the mineralogy section contained many notable early amateur mineralogists including W.F. Chamberlin, his son B.B. Chamberlin, Dr. Benjamin Nicholas Martin (1816-1883), his son Dr. Daniel S. Martin and S.C.H. Bailey (1822-1910) whose mineral collection of 5000+ specimens was acquired in 1874 by the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH), founded in 1869, and was the first mineral collection purchased by the museum.

The Minerals of New York City: Map and geologic sections of Manhattan Island from Cozzens (1843) illustrating the topography of Manhattan.

Map and geologic sections of Manhattan Island from Cozzens (1843) illustrating the topography of Manhattan.

The Transactions of the New York Academy of Sciences started publication in 1881 and chronicles the lectures and discussions held by the sections of the NYAS, including mineralogy. Many reports and exhibits were made by the members, which included George F. Kunz (1856-1932) noted gem expert, author, and vice-president of Tiffany & Co.; Benjamin B. Chamberlin (1831-1888) engraver and accomplished collector of New York City minerals; and Daniel Strobel Martin (1842-1925) geology professor and author, who appears to be largest contributor to the operation of the mineralogy section of the NYAS. It was at the NYAS on May 31st, 1886 that B.B. Chamberlin announced the discovery of the "Subway Garnet". At the same meeting, D.S. Martin proposed that the NYAS membership should assemble a collection of mineral specimens from NYC and suggested B.B. Chamberlin's mineral collection could be acquired to form the nucleus of such a collection.

The Minerals of New York City: Map of mineral localities represented in the mineral collection of the NYMC.

Map of mineral localities represented in the mineral collection of the NYMC.
Note the clustering of localities corresponding to the old New York and Harlem Railroad tunnel
under upper Park Avenue.

Shortly thereafter, on September 21st, 1886 the New York Mineralogical Club (NYMC) was founded by Kunz, Martin and Chamberlin with the first meeting held at Martin's home at 236 West 4th Street. They founded the club "to form a cabinet of New York County minerals before improvements now going on in said county made it impossible to form such a cabinet and presenting the collection to a museum." Clearly the 35 mineral collectors at the first meeting were concerned about the loss of the natural landscape to the creeping urbanism that was working north on Manhattan Island but had not yet reached far above 50th Street. By the second meeting of the NYMC the membership included three particularly notable mineral collectors Clarence Bement (1843-1923) penultimate mineral collector whose collection is now at the American Museum of Natural History in NYC; Washington A. Roebling (1837-1926) builder of the Brooklyn Bridge whose collection now resides at the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C.; and William Niven (1850-1937) an early mineral dealer who eventually served on the Board of Directors of the Houston Museum of Natural History.

The NYMC was a separate group from the NYAS even though they shared common members. In 1887 the NYAS hosted the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Sciences (AAAS) and recognized the value of incorporating specialized local societies following the model of the AAAS. The NYAS invited other societies to apply for affiliation. The NYMC was the first to apply and on April 2, 1888 the NYAS membership voted to unite the two groups with the provision that the NYMC retain their name and independence. Thereafter the NYMC met with (and essentially ran) the mineralogy section of the NYAS and published meeting reports in the Transactions of the NYAS. Prior to incorporation with the NYAS, the NYMC reports can be found in the Exchanger's Monthly, an early magazine published for mineral collectors.

In 1892, George Kunz proposed to the club membership that an exhibit of New York City minerals be prepared for the upcoming World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893. Kunz took responsibility for assembling and financing the exhibit. The NYMC exhibit was in the Mines and Mining Building as part of Group 42: Minerals, Ores, Native Metals, Gems and Crystals - Geological Specimens. It received an award for the exhibit, one of the thousands presented to the exhibitors, and an engraved diploma prepared by the Bureau of Engraving and Printing under the Direction of the Executive Committee of the World's Columbian Exposition Commission was presented to the club in 1896. Other New York State exhibitors that received awards in this group included: George Kunz (3 awards), Ward's Natural Science Establishment (4 awards), and Tiffany & Co. (2 awards). In 1894 the exhibition committee requested a catalog of the NYMC exhibit for their records and the NYMC authorized the preparation of the catalog at their April 1894 meeting. The diploma and catalog are no longer in the NYMC files, though a duplicate of the diploma should be on file at the National Archives.

The Minerals of New York City: Undated photo of the Brooklyn Academy field collecting trip to anthophyllite boulders in glacial drift in Brooklyn

Undated photo of the Brooklyn Academy field collecting trip to anthophyllite boulders in glacial drift in Brooklyn
with the Penitentiary buildings in background. Daniel .S. Martin, NYMC co-founder, is listed on the
rear of the photo as one of the collectors. Photo: Staten Island Museum

Despite their unassuming name, the NYMC was a serious organization of respected professionals. Each new member had to be sponsored (proposed) by an existing member, reviewed by the membership committee that recommended candidates to the entire membership, then were voted in by a majority of the members. Over the 120+ years the club name has not changed, even though the name has been variously misstated as the Mineralogical Club of New York, New York Mineralogical Society, The New York Mineral Society, and The New York Mineral Club.

The NYMC club members took the task of preserving New York City minerals seriously. Over the years they added to the collection through purchases of important specimens and collections. Though there have been losses over the years, the club collection still has approximately 700 specimens remaining and is currently housed for safekeeping at the AMNH. Today the collection and is still the best reference we have of New York City minerals collected prior to 1930.

The Minerals of New York City: Collecting in March 1942 at marble outcrop at 207th Street Manhattan.

Collecting in March 1942 at marble outcrop at 207th Street Manhattan. Edge Goldstein on left.
Photo: Irving Horowitz.

In April 1888 the NYMC meeting minutes reported that Dr. Sieberg, as chairman of the collection committee, had received acceptance from the AMNH to store the club collection "subject to certain reasonable regulations" and the collection was moved there in the summer of that year. The NYMC mineral collection has been permanently loaned to the AMNH since then and portions were placed on display in two cases in the north end of the old Hall of Geology. One case exhibited the minerals encountered when crossing the Manhattan Island east to west. The other case exhibited the wide variety of minerals found on Manhattan. The NYMC collection was displayed for over 50 years in the museum, but sadly is no longer on public display. At the time of this article, plans were being made for an exhibit at the New York State Museum in Albany to display the best of the NYMC mineral collection.

Early Collectors and Collections

Several local mineral collectors stand out in the history of mineral collecting in New York City.

Benjamin B. Chamberlin

The largest private collection of New York City minerals was assembled by Benjamin B. Chamberlin (1831-1888) who was the catalyst for the formation of the NYMC. B.B. Chamberlin was an engraver and created the engraving of the Subway Garnet that appeared in New York Academy of Sciences Transactions Volume 5 for May 31, 1886 and Gems & Precious Stones of North America (1890). After he served in the Civil War, he returned to New York City, where he considered it his life's work to assemble a collection of mineral specimens from the city. In 1888 B.B. Chamberlin died and the NYMC arranged to purchase his collection of approximately 1000 New York City minerals from his estate for $1500, a large sum at the time when a common laborer's wages averaged $6-$10 per week. Articles in the New York Times announced club appeals for funds to purchase the collection. At the time, Chamberlin's collection was considered the most extensive collection of local minerals in existence and it became the core of the NYMC mineral collection that currently resides at the American Museum of Natural History.

George F. Kunz

Arguably one of the most important influences on minerals and collecting is George Kunz (1856-1932). Much has been written about Kunz, and by Kunz, this article will not repeat them. As co-founder of the NYMC, Kunz took the task of assembling a collection for the NYMC seriously, and he acquired many important NYC mineral specimens. These were labeled as loaned to the NYMC or part of the Kunz collection on loan to the NYMC. Upon his death he bequeathed the NYMC full ownership of the minerals on loan, including the famous Subway Garnet. He also left an endowment to the NYMC to fund an annual prize for best publication on the minerals of NYC. The Kunz prize was bestowed annually for many years, but in the 1980s, when the club had lost their elite stature, the endowment was merged (illegally) into the general club treasury. Two Kunz prizes were awarded in the 1990s, but currently the NYMC has abandoned the prize again due to poor response to their call for papers.

The Minerals of New York City: Quartz from 176th Street and 10th Avenue, Manhattan

Quartz from 176th Street and 10th Avenue, Manhattan, NY., ex. Kunz, 6 x 5 x 3 cm, NYSM #1354.

Gilman S. Stanton

Throughout his life Gilman Shattuck Stanton (1872-1954) was a passionate mineral collector. As a student, he discovered the famous find of almandine garnets at 65th Street and Broadway that ranks among the best finds in Manhattan. He was a lifelong member of the NYMC and eventually presided as their president for many years. Upon his death in 1954, Stanton's mineral collection was acquired by Hugh Ford (1885-1966), the New York City-based mineral dealer. Ford's advertisements in Rocks & Minerals (November-December 1954) offered "Sphene, Harlem, New York City" most likely referring to the specimens Stanton recovered during the construction of the Harlem Speedway, known as the Harlem River Drive today. (Fitton 1995)

James G. Manchester

The two most authoritative references on New York City minerals at the time were written by James Greenfield Manchester (1871-1948); The Minerals of Broadway (1914) and The Minerals of New York City and Its Environs (1931), plus several smaller articles about the minerals of NYC. The specimens he donated to the NYMC collection rank among the best in the collection and the name Manchester associated with a specimen carries an implicit association of quality. Manchester permanently loaned many of his best NYC mineral specimens to the NYMC. After the death of his wife Manchester donated his mineral collection, with the exception of the loaned specimens that were bequeathed to the NYMC, to the library in Falls River, Massachusetts where they were labeled as the "Florence Pilkington Manchester Memorial Collection," where it resided until recently dispersed.

The Minerals of New York City: Three xenotime crystals mounted in plaster, from 165th Street and Broadway Manhattan, NY

Three xenotime crystals mounted in plaster, from 165th Street and Broadway Manhattan, NY.
ex. Manchester 7-10 mm crystals. NYMC #651.

Local Mineral Museum Collections

The following museums have significant collections of mineral specimens from NYC.

American Museum of Natural History

The AMNH has the finest worldwide mineral and gem collection on display in the New York City area. Their display once had systematic exhibits of glass-topped cabinets but these were abandoned for the dramatic lighting and displays popular in the 1970s. Only a handful of mineral specimens from NYC are currently on display. Notably an artinite specimen and a serpentine specimen from Staten Island; a muscovite crystal from 172nd Street and Fort Washington Avenue; and a large trapezohedral almandine crystal from the NYMC collection labeled as from simply "New York, NY" that was found at West 166th Street and Knowlton Place, near the current Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center. The museum is located at 79th Street on Central Park West in NYC.

New York State Museum

The NYSM has a large collection of minerals and they take seriously the task of preserving NY State minerals, acquiring NY specimens when they become available. Their current displays show the breadth and beauty of NY minerals, well beyond the Herkimer Diamonds that novice collectors think of when NY minerals are discussed. The NYSM collection of New York City minerals is second only to the NYMC collection. Fortunately the NYSM has greater flexibility in adding or rotating the minerals on display and they plan a case of the minerals of NYC in the near future with the help of the AMNH and NYMC. The NYSM is on Madison Avenue, south of the Empire State Plaza in Albany, NY.

The Staten Island Museum

In 1881 the Natural Science Association of Staten Island was founded. Eventually changing its name to the Staten Island Institute of Arts and Sciences (SIIAS), this organization opened the current Staten Island Museum (SIM) in 1917. Currently this is the only museum within the boundaries of NYC with a collection of local minerals on display. The SIM is a delightful regional museum focusing on the history and natural history of Staten Island. In 1937 the SIM acquired the mineral collection of the old Brooklyn Institute and the merged collections are extensive with many unique specimens not represented in the NYMC, AMNH, NYSM collections. Their geology and mineral exhibits are nicely displayed and well illuminated. Any mineral collector visiting Manhattan should take the free Staten Island Ferry over to Staten Island where the museum is a five minute walk from the ferry terminal at 75 Stuyvesant Place.

The Minerals of New York City: Iron-oxide replacement after roots collected in 1886-7 by Amos Smith at iron mines in Westerleigh, Staten Island

Iron-oxide replacement after roots collected in 1886-7 by Amos Smith at iron mines in Westerleigh, Staten Island, NY.
23x12 cm. Staten Island Museum #G4119.

Geography

New York City (NYC) was solely Manhattan Island, also called New York Island, until the 1898 consolidation with the Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens, and Staten Island that created the NYC we know today. These separate boroughs are also known as the following counties of New York State: Manhattan = New York County; the Bronx = Bronx County; Queens = Queens County; Brooklyn = Kings County; Staten Island = Richmond County. When reviewing historic literature pre-1898 New York meant Manhattan Island only and in the same references the Bronx was part of Westchester County.

The Minerals of New York City: Overview of the five boroughs of New York City and location of the major mineral localities discussed in the article.

Overview of the five boroughs of New York City and location of the major mineral
localities discussed in the article.

Manhattan Island is oriented NNE-SSW following the folding of the underlying geology. Northern Manhattan is dominated by a long ridge peaking at 80.7 meters above sea level near Fort Washington and in Inwood Park. The highest point in Central Park is the Great Hill at 41.1 m above sea level. The area of lower midtown Manhattan is largely buried by glacial and river sediments to a depth reaching a maximum of 35 meters near Chambers Street. The deep sediments resulted in few tall buildings between midtown and downtown Manhattan because of the difficulty in reaching solid bedrock to support the heavy foundations. The bedrock rises again to near surface at the southern end of the island around Wall Street.

Brooklyn and Queens comprise the western end of Long Island and are separated from Manhattan Island and the Bronx by the East River and Long Island Sound. Queens and Brooklyn formed as terminal moraines and the minerals found there were recovered mostly in glacial erratics that originated elsewhere. Two major moraines that formed Long Island are the Harbor Hill moraine in the north and the Ronkonkoma moraine in the south. The moraines merge near the eastern end of Queens and run to the southwest through Brooklyn in a ridge around 60 meters above sea level stretching roughly from Kew Gardens in Queens to Prospect Park in Brooklyn. A few deep bedrock excavations have produced fine minerals specimens as we shall see later in this article.

On a map Staten Island appears to be part of New Jersey, separated from the other four boroughs of New York by New York Harbor. A large serpentine highland, 11 km long , underlain by Manhattan Group basement rock, runs through Staten Island from northeast to southwest and forms the highest point in NYC, Todt Hill at 124.9 meters above sea level. To the northwest of the serpentine highland, running parallel, are diabase, sandstone and shale formations that are extensions of the Newark Basin. The southern and eastern portions of Staten Island are gravel/sand/clay beds of the coastal plain and glacial deposits.

Geologic Settings

The minerals found in NYC occur in six distinct geological domains. A brief overview is needed to understand the minerals found. But this article, with limited space, cannot seriously discuss the geology, which is still being studied and interpreted today. For in-depth discussion of NYC geology, readers are referred to the references by Dr. Charles Merguerian at www.dukelabs.com.

Fordham Gneiss

The oldest bedrock exposed in the city is the billion year old Fordham Gneiss, a complexly deformed sequence of interlayered metasedimentary, metavolcanic, and metaplutonic rocks that form the ancient underpinning of NYC. The mineralogy of this sequence predominately consists of quartz, feldspar, mica(s), amphiboles, pyroxene and garnet, with common accessory minerals of kyanite, sillimanite, epidote, and magnetite. The Fordham is exposed in the Bronx with portions extending into the subsurface of Manhattan and beneath the Cretaceous and overlying glacial sediment of Queens and Brooklyn.

The Minerals of New York City: Prehnite with epidote from Water Tunnel #3, Queens

Prehnite with epidote from Water Tunnel #3, Queens, NY 10x7x4 cm overall, 1-4 mm crystals. NYSM #21253 .

Manhattan Group

The Manhattan Group schists are a series of three schistose units (Manhattan, Hartland, and Walloomsac) underlying Manhattan Island and extending northward into parts of the Bronx (Merguerian 1995, 2005; Merguerian and Merguerian 2004). They are silvery-to-gray quartz-plagioclase-muscovite-biotite schists with interlayered amphibolite and granofels layers. The schists are frequently intruded with crosscutting granitic pegmatites. The minerals found in the Manhattan Group are commonly associated with the pegmatites and the altered contact zones surrounding them. Late forming minerals, specifically zeolites are found in narrow fractures and faults running through the schists (Merguerian 2002).

Cameron's Line marks a tectonic boundary extending through the northeastern US through the middle of the Bronx and wraps around the southern portion of Manhattan Island. East of Cameron's line, through the Bronx, lies the Hartland Formation of metamorphosed former oceanic strata that were accreted to the North American continent during the early Paleozoic Taconic orogeny (Merguerian 1983; Merguerian and Sanders, 1993). The Hartland is part of the Manhattan Group but it represents exotic strata that were not formerly deposited on North American crust.

The Minerals of New York City: Stilbite from Water Tunnel No.2 under Roosevelt Island, NY County, NY

Stilbite from Water Tunnel No.3 under Roosevelt Island, NY County, NY 3x2x1 cm.
Collected in 1970 by Dietmar Stitz.

The Minerals of New York City: Talc from Water Tunnel No.2 under Roosevelt Island, NY County, NY

Talc from Water Tunnel No.3 under Roosevelt Island, NY County, NY 8x5x5 cm 30 mm.
Collected in 1974 by Dietmar Stitz.

Inwood Marble

The Inwood Marble (sometimes referred to as the Inwood Limestone) is a gray-to-tan grainy dolomitic to calcitic marble that runs through the central Bronx and into the northeastern portion of Manhattan Island. It was formerly quarried for lime kilns, as a building stone, and as grave markers. However the complex mineralogy and high mica content caused it to weather poorly and was it abandoned as building stone. Minerals associated with the Inwood Marble include brown tourmaline, phlogopite, tremolite, pyrite, diopside, quartz, and rutile among many others.

The Minerals of New York City: Pyrite crystal 9 mm across in Inwood Marble from Dyckman Street, Manhattan

Pyrite crystal 9 mm across in Inwood Marble from Dyckman Street, Manhattan, NY 5 x 5 x 3 cm NYSM #16875.

The Minerals of New York City: Dravite-Uvite tourmaline in Inwood marble from 176th Street at Amsterdam Ave. Manhattan

Dravite-Uvite tourmaline in Inwood marble from 176th Street at Amsterdam Ave. Manhattan NY
ex. Kunz. 20x15 cm NYMC #607.

Serpentinite

Serpentinite outcrops in bands and pods along the length of the eastern seaboard of the US. Serpentine has been discovered associated with the Manhattan Group in western midtown Manhattan (Merguerian 2006) and the north-central highlands of Staten Island (Okulewicz 1990). Typical of iron- and magnesium-rich serpentine in the northeast, the constituent minerals include antigorite, chrysotile, lizardite, brucite, talc with disseminated grains of chromite and magnetite. When the serpentine decomposes secondary mineralization includes artinite, hydromagnesite, magnesite, goethite-hematite and quartz.

The Minerals of New York City: Richmond Iron Mining Company mine on Staten Island from a company photograph taken in 1881.

Richmond Iron Mining Company mine on Staten Island from a company photograph taken in 1881.

Cretaceous Strata

In the eastern portion and southwestern end of Staten Island are sedimentary deposits of the Cretaceous Raritan and Magothy formations that extend southwestward into New Jersey and northeastward through the subsurface of Long Island. Clay pits were mined for their clay and have produced a wide array of fossils and amber. Pyrite and marcasite concretions are present throughout the clay beds. The abundant marcasite rapidly decomposes upon removal from the clay, altering to whitish melanterite and producing a weak sulfuric acid vapor in the process which will eat through boxes and labels. However a few of the nodules proved to be pyrite and they show little to no decay over time.

Glacial Deposits

The terminal moraines that formed Queens and Brooklyn transported rocks and sediment from the northeast and northwest (Sanders and Merguerian 1994, 1998). Many minerals have been collected from these glacial erratics. An article from the New York Times, May 20th, 1889, describes three collecting trips by the NYMC and the Brooklyn Institute. Over 40 mineral species were described in the article, many matching descriptions of the minerals from New Jersey, Manhattan and the Bronx, upslope from the glacial advance paths.

Mining and Quarrying in New York City

Early settlers were hopeful of forming profitable mining enterprises in the New World. Many mining attempts were made in the NY area, but the first viable mine was across the Hudson River in Arlington, New Jersey where the Schuyler Copper Mine was established ca. 1715. As with any early settlement, mining was also required for the iron industry, building stone and lime production used as plaster.

The NYC Parks Department reports the first evidence of iron mining on Staten Island dates to 1644 when Todt Hill was known by the Dutch as Yserberg, meaning Iron Hill, because of the widely disseminated iron oxides goethite-hematite that formed from the decomposition of the underlying serpentine. Large scale mining did not occur until around 1830 when modern blast furnaces initiated the growth in the cast iron industry. In 1832 Walter Dongan granted permission to mine a portion of his property and mining continued in the area through 1880s, when the Lake Superior iron mines started producing iron ore more economically. An often cited statistic is that 300,000 tons of iron ore was mined on Staten Island, though the exact source of the statistic is unknown. The iron was mined for iron foundries and also finely ground for use as the pigment red ochre. Iron mining centered around Todt Hill, Emerson Hill and Grymes Hill.

The Minerals of New York City: Richmond Iron Mining Company mine on Staten Island from a company photograph taken in 1881.

Richmond Iron Mining Company mine on Staten Island from a company photograph taken in 1881.

In the Kingsbridge area, at the northern end of Manhattan Island, there were several quarries excavating the Inwood marble. Two mills for sawing the limestone, one located on the Bolton Canal the other on Spuyten Duyvil Creek, were powered by the tidal flow between the East River and Hudson River. One hand-drawn map by John Randel of northern Manhattan Island shows two marble quarries and a kiln on the property of John and Charles Bolton, and a marble quarry on the eastern slope below the old Fort Price Charles on land owned by Jacob Hyatt. Another map drawn by William M'Neil in 1835 shows another marble quarry to the west, near where the eastern border of Inwood Park is today. This same map illustrated two granite quarries on the north shore of Spuyten Duyvil Creek as it enters the Hudson River, at the southernmost edge of the Riverdale section of the Bronx. The Inwood marble was quarried to make quicklime for use in mortar and plaster construction, and as building stone, but it weathered poorly and it's use was abandoned by around 1850 when the marble quarries of Vermont began producing a better quality of marble, more resistant to weathering, and the transportation infrastructure was in place to move the stone produced to the metropolitan area economically. Several references refer to Thompson's (or Thomson's) marble quarry at 196th Street near Fort Tryon Park and Fort George (Chamberlin 1888).

The Minerals of New York City: Map of northern Manhattan Island by Colton (1836) showing the old marble quarry near Spuyten Duyvil Creek

Map of northern Manhattan Island by Colton (1836) showing the old marble quarry near Spuyten Duyvil Creek
and another quarry across the creek in the Riverdale section of the Bronx.
See the NY Times interactive map, click on the 1836 map to zoom in and explore closely this map in detail.

A note of clarification is needed regarding the use of the name Kingsbridge. The area of northern Manhattan Island west of the Harlem River was referred to as Kingsbridge by early residents, named for the early toll bridge, and is synonymous with Inwood today. In 1895 the Harlem Ship Canal cut through the Kingsbridge area severing a small section of the northern tip of Manhattan Island. Rock from the canal was used to fill the old Spuyten Duyvil channel, thereby joining the severed section to the Bronx. The severed section retains it's stature as part of the borough of Manhattan, even though it is no longer attached to Manhattan Island. As a result, all of the old mineral localities labeled as from Kingsbridge sites are all in Manhattan, even though they appear to be in the Bronx. Do not be confused by current NYC maps that shows a completely different neighborhood in the Bronx called Kingsbridge, north of the Marble Hill neighborhood, northeast of the Harlem River.

The U.S. asbestos industry began in 1858 when fibrous anthophyllite was mined for use as asbestos insulation by the Johns Company, a predecessor to the current Johns Manville at a quarry at Ward's Hill on Staten Island. A few local buildings of the area, including the Dutch Reformed Church in Huguenot, were constructed of the local serpentine quarried on Staten Island. The stone's greenish appearance distinguishes it from other building stones used in the area. The serpentine proved to be a poor building stone because of poor resistance to weathering.

The Encyclopedia of New York City (1991) incorrectly states that gypsum was mined on Staten Island until the 1960s. It is possible this is in reference to J.B. King's Windsor Plaster Mills in New Brighton, Staten Island that processed gypsum imported from Nova Scotia, but did not mine the gypsum locally. One of the products King produced was "asbestos cement for plastering walls and ceilings" and it is possible that the asbestos content was locally mined anthophyllite.

Clay pits in southwestern Staten Island were mined for white kaolin clay beginning in the mid-1800s. In 1854 B. Kreischer & Sons started mining clay used for manufacturing brick, terra cotta and tiles. At their peak, the operation employed 300 workers and production topped three million bricks per year. The operation lasted until 1929. Other operations mined clay and one 260 acre tract has been preserved as Clay Pit Ponds State Park Preserve. Few minerals have been recovered from the clay deposits but they are well known for amber, lignite and over 300 types of plant fossils/impressions preserved in the clay.

In Manhattan, there were building stone quarries in east midtown at Kip's Bay and Turtle Bay on the East River from 38th to 44th Streets that excavated gneiss for building stone. Chamberlin (1888) reports the quarries operated for 50 years but had completely disappeared by the late 1880s. Julien (1883) reports gneiss was quarried for building stone at Willet's Point and Hallet's Point in Queens (though he incorrectly listed these localities in Kings County). Limestone was quarried at St. Ann's Quarry in Mott Haven in the south Bronx (Julien 1883), further north at a quarry on Jerome Avenue (Chamberlin 1883a) and at the Central Avenue Quarry (Chamberlin 1888). Building stone quarries operating from 1841 to 1896 in the Graniteville and Travis sections of Staten Island quarried the diabase for paving stones that were used on portions of Broadway, Whitehall Street and Bowling Green in Manhattan, the streets of Brooklyn and exported for use on the streets of Charleston, South Carolina.

Though not part of the mining or quarrying industries, two colossal construction projects deserve special mention because of the amount of rock displaced: the Harlem Ship Canal (and straightening of the Harlem River-Spuyten Duyvil Creek) and the Water Tunnel No. 3.

The Harlem Ship Canal at the northern end of Manhattan Island was constructed from 1875 to 1938, blasted straight through the island to connect the Harlem and East River with the Hudson River near the old Spuyten Duyvil Creek. The canal followed the much smaller, earlier Bolton Canal (later the Dyckman Canal) that appears on maps in the early 1800s. In addition to the canal, the river channel was straightened and deepened west of the canal, between it and the Hudson River. The excavated rock was used to fill the tidal creek called the Spuyten Duyvil around three sides of the Marble Hill neighborhood at the northern end of Manhattan Island. The result was a small portion of Manhattan is now connected to the Bronx, though still maintaining a political designation as part of Manhattan. This explains how mineral specimens from 225th Street at Broadway are considered as minerals from Manhattan, even though modern maps show that area connected to the Bronx. The rock dumps of this huge project were a favorite mineral collecting locality at the time with the most prolific dump at Broadway and 220th Street now buried underneath Baker Field, the football stadium for Columbia University.

The Minerals of New York City: Northern Manhattan Island ca. 1883 with Inwood Hill in the distance and Spuyten Duyvil Creek

Northern Manhattan Island ca. 1883 with Inwood Hill in the distance and Spuyten Duyvil Creek before the construction
of the Harlem Ship Canal. The factory at the right is the Johnson Iron Foundry.

The Minerals of New York City: Comparison of the Bolton Canal (1832) left, the expansion of the Harlem Ship Canal

Comparison of the Bolton Canal (1832) left, the expansion of the Harlem Ship Canal (1897) middle, and the completed canal (1979) right. Note the channel is straightened. The excavated rock was used as fill around three sides of Manhattan, , north of the canal, joining it physically to the Bronx. The attached portion of the island (the neighborhood of Marble Hill) retains it's status as part of Manhattan. The excavated rock from the canal has been a favorite of local mineral collectors for over 100 years.

The Minerals of New York City: Harper's Weekly Illustration by Al. Hencke from the February 16th, 1895 issue entitled: The New Ship-Canal at Kingsbridge

Harper's Weekly Illustration by Al. Hencke from the February 16th, 1895 issue entitled: The New Ship-Canal at Kingsbridge
Connecting the Harlem and Hudson Rivers. Compare with photograph in Figure76 of the same area before construction.
The excavation for the canal through the highland composed of Inwood Marble has been a source of mineral specimens for over 100 years.
Original in the L.H. Conklin collection.

The Minerals of New York City: Quartz, var. smoky with pyrite from Kingsbridge Ship Canal, Manhattan Island

Quartz, var. smoky with pyrite from Kingsbridge Ship Canal, Manhattan Island, NY ex. Kunz 10x7 cm. NYMC #474.

The Minerals of New York City: Irving Horowitz collecting in March 1938 at Dyckman Street rock dump at Hudson River in Manhattan.

Irving Horowitz collecting in March 1938 at Dyckman Street rock dump at Hudson River in Manhattan.

Water Tunnel No. 3 began construction in 1970 to relieve the burden on the existing Water Tunnels Nos.1 and 2. The tunnel, when completed, will connect the city to the upstate water supply. The tunnel runs under the Bronx, Manhattan, Queens and Brooklyn and connects to the existing aqueduct on Staten Island. The tunnel varies from 3.2-8.0 meters in diameter and is 250-800 feet below the surface. Vertical shafts are scattered throughout the city. Stage one of the construction employed traditional drill and blast methods and mineral specimens were preserved by the project geologists and the sandhogs (the tunnel workers). Currently, tunnel construction employs tunnel boring machines (TBM) that grind the excavated rock reducing collectible mineral specimens to those recovered from the fault zones exposed in the tunnel walls after the TBM has passed. Still the blasting for the shafts and valve chambers has produced collectible minerals, many recovered from the rock dumps scattered around the metropolitan area.

The Minerals of New York City: Apophyllite-(KF) from Water Tunnel #3

Apophyllite-(KF) from Water Tunnel #3, Manhattan, NY 18x18 mm NYSM

The Minerals of New York City: Pyrite from Water Tunnel #3, Manhattan

Pyrite from Water Tunnel #3, Manhattan, NY., 18x18x42 mm. NYSM #22156B.

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