One of my favorite things about selling Carthage real estate is the opportunity to see so many beautiful homes made from locally quarried stone. In the 1800s and early 1900s, limestone quarries were a big part of the local economy, along with other mining and manufacturing concerns.
Carthage limestone is a very high quality building stone, with such a fine texture that when polished it was referred to as "Carthage marble". It was used throughout the Midwest for both interior and exterior purposes, including in the Missouri state capitol building. The Jasper County Courthouse is also built of Carthage limestone.
Early industrial magnates added a high-end touch to the real estate market in Carthage by building themselves ornate stone mansions. Limestone was hauled in and hand-hewn to fit on-site. One of the loveliest homes in town is the Phelps House, owned by Carthage Historic Preservation, Inc. I snapped this photo the other day when the autumn leaves were at their peak.
More modest Carthage homes also make great use of local stone. This unusual home mixes the formal, pale grey Carthage stone blocks with what is called "native stone" here. Native stone at its simplest is the rocks that a farmer works hard to dig out of his fields. Not all native stone looks the same, but it is generally some shade of reddish-brown, and irregular in shape. It's used in chunks; you can't really call them blocks. I think this house looks just great with the native stone foundation and limestone walls. You can see the more formal stone on the left hand wall and porch interior.
Throughout Southwest Missouri, rural properties also use native stone for barns and outbuildings. Sometimes the farmhouse itself is also built of stone. After all, it was free and they had plenty of it! I'll add a little country stone tour in another blog entry.
I'm still fascinated by the historic stone homes of Carthage. Recently, I ran across a great project called "Early Stone Cutters in Western Missouri". This is a great read for anyone who enjoys learning about early industry in the U.S. I've always enjoyed finding out more about "anonymous artists": stonemasons, quiltmakers, furniture builders and so many more. Enjoy your reading and I'll be back with more Carthage history another day.
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