Sandstone Building Blocks in Linton, 1914
Friday, April 11, 2014
The town of Linton was prosperous in 1914. Located sixty miles southeast of Bismarck, Linton is the county seat of Emmons County, and it’s situated smack-dab in the county’s geographic center.
Linton is beautifully located at the confluence of Beaver Creek and Spring Creek, amidst gently undulating prairies and protective high buttes, the adjacent lands ideal for farming and cattle-grazing.
Unique among North Dakota’s towns, Linton’s downtown buildings were made from sandstone, extracted from quarries in the nearby buttes. Townspeople took particular pride in their “peculiar form of sandstone,” judged to be “the finest building material of its kind” in the whole state.
A newspaper reported in 1903 that “several stone quarries” had been opened, employing “from 40 to 50 men” to extract the sandstone and cut it into blocks. The handsome sandstone was said to be “found in unlimited quantities,” and was to be “an industry that Linton should . . . hold for years to come.”
Townspeople built a dozen buildings from the native stone, including a hospital, a bank, and an Episcopal Church. Linton was so proud of its building stone it shipped “big chunks of it” to the St. Louis World’s Fair Exposition in 1904. “This stone . . . of a dark-blue color” that could be cut to make the “most beautiful shapes” won a first-prize award.
Some cut-sandstone went to Bismarck in 1910 for use in building the Patterson Block, but concrete construction became predominant, and the use of sandstone declined.
The first civic boosters once vowed to make Linton “the stone city,” but that “was never fully carried out.” Still, on this date, in 1914, Linton reached a milestone, for the Bismarck Tribune reported that Linton officially incorporated as a city, albeit by just one vote as a simple majority. Some opposed incorporation, fearing tax increases that might accompany the new designation.
As a city, Linton endured many 20th-century challenges, but its sandstone buildings eventually became timeworn after ninety-plus years. The Episcopal Church was slated for demolition, but the local historical society saved it – turning it into a museum. The old bank fell to the wrecking-ball in 2007, and the hospital faced the same fate.
How does a small city preserve its architectural heritage in an era of rural decline? Linton is trying to keep its “stone city” legacy alive through the historic preservation efforts of the Emmons County Historical Society.
Dakota Datebook written by Dr. Steve Hoffbeck, History Department, MSUM Moorhead.
Sources: “Linton Becomes City By A Majority Of One,” Bismarck Tribune, April 11, 1914, p. 1.
“State News; Several Stone Quarries Have Been Opened,” Bismarck Tribune, July 3, 1903, p. 4.
“Linton,” Bismarck Daily Tribune, June 5, 1914, p. 6.
“Stone For New Hotel Quarried At Linton,” Bismarck Daily Tribune, July 30, 1910, p. 6.
“Emmons County Building Stone . . . St. Louis Exposition,” Bismarck Tribune, February 27, 1904, p. 2.
“Good Stone,” Bismarck Daily Tribune, March 12, 1906, p. 3.
“Emmons County Prosperity,” Bismarck Tribune, September 26, 1903, p. 3.
“Emmons County,” Bismarck Daily Tribune, March 24, 1884, p. 2.
Lauren Donovan, “Remnants of the Stone Age in North Dakota,” Bismarck Tribune, January 13, 2007, bismarcktribune.com, accessed on March 12, 2014.
“Linton,” The WPA Guide To 1930s North Dakota (Bismarck: State Historical Society of N.D., 1990), p. 210.