Stonecutting, or stone masonry, is an ancient art, the best known achievements being the pyramids of Egypt, commissioned by Cheops at the beginning of the 4th Dynasty. These enduring stone structures have withstood the elements for many, many centuries. The stone was well chosen and strong and,e except for the environmental effect of our century, the skill and unique artistry of these ancient stone cutters is still visible today.
Hot Springs is a modern-day gallery of the art of stonecutting. But where did these stones come from? How were they quarried and transported? Who fit them so precisely into place?
Sandstone is common around Hot Springs and so there were more than a dozen quarries in the area. But the majority of pink stone (the pink color shows the presence of iron) came from the Evans Quarry operated from the 1880's until 1928. You can see this quarry just four miles east of Hot Springs on Highway 385; as you leave the river canyon and cross the two bridges, look up on the south wall. The old quarry is overgrown with vegetation but very visible. Here, stonecutters sweated and slaved to remove great slabs of stone from the canyon wall. With needed measurements in hand, they drilled tap holes cutting the shape of each required stone. Then wedges were driven in these holes until a large slab would break loose ready to be removed by large wooden derricks to the quarry's saw shed. In these open air shelters, large slow moving saws, powered by steam (and later, electricity) shaped the rough slabs into carefully cut blocks. Then by rail, along Fall River they would be delivered to the building sites.
Now, exact fitting and "dressing" of the stone had to be done. A mason and stonecutter worked together. With mathematical precision, the mason cemented each stone firmly into place. And the stonecutter, with his wooden mallet an iron chisels, added the finishing touch, whether it was a textured face, a repeating pattern or an ornate detail.
Stonecutting, like many other trades, was not without peril. Despite the obvious danger of handling massive bulk and weight, there was the constant problem of dust. These rugged men breathed a lot of it...everyday, and many died at a young age from what was labeled as "Stonecutters Consumption."
So as you discover, examine and appreciate the delicate details of our marvelous buildings here in Hot Springs, you will come to know the stonecutter, his heart and soul, preserved in stone.