Throwback Thursday – A Century of Limestone

Southern Kentucky is known for its caves and unusual topography. Between the karst and sinkholes, there’s a historic element that played an important role in the area’s economy and progress for over a century—the limestone.

The historic marker at Riverwalk Park in downtown Bowling Green tells the story of limestone bluffs along Barren River and the underground limestone that was once quarried all over Warren County. Many of Bowling Green’s historic buildings were constructed with this high quality limestone.

According to research conducted by the Talisman at Western Kentucky University and the Kentucky Library, the first limestone quarry in Warren County opened in 1833. Called the Bowling Green White Stone Quarry, its stones were transported all the way to Pennsylvania and Alabama for construction. Bowling Green limestone was used to build the governor’s mansion in Frankfort and for government buildings all the way to Washington, D.C.

Limestone was quarried with steam drillers and rocks were cut the size of 150 cubic meters. The limestone business grew rapidly over the next 100 years and there were more than 20 limestone quarries operating in Warren County by 1930.

Some examples of Bowling Green buildings that contain the white limestone are the Kentucky Building and Van Meter Hall on campus, the Warren County Courthouse, Houchens Industries headquarters, and the First Baptist Church. 

The Great Depression brought an end to the quarry business in Warren County, shutting the facilities down for a 100-year industry as construction across the country halted. The Bowling Green White Stone Quarry remains closed.