Rural Missouri Magazine

Rosati Sandstone
Ancient building material revisited
thanks to Jim DiPardo's unique quarry

by Jim McCarty

In seven years of operation, Jim has barely scratched the surface of this seam of sandstone. Tests show the seam of Roubidoux sandstone runs 50 feet deep.

When Jim DiPardo bought a piece of land outside Rosati he was aware he had a quarry on it. But he never dreamed of doing anything with it.

Today the Intercounty Electric Co-op member is on a one-man crusade to bring back Missouri sandstone. His Rosati Sandstone quarry is the only one of its kind in Missouri.

Once common in the building trades, sandstone fell out of favor over the years. The old quarry on Jim's land hadn't been used since the 1960s. Even Jim isn't sure what possessed him to reopen the old pit.

From 1978 to 1988 he worked at Maramec Spring Park, a trout stream and historic site located in nearby St. James. Only his natural resources degree from the University of Missouri prepared him for the transition to quarry owner.

"That was so long ago it seems like another lifetime," Jim says. "At the park I dealt with people and animals. Here I deal with rocks. I still get to interact with people, but now it's architects, builders and homeowners."

Jim DiPardo gets excited when he uncovers a seam of sandstone marked with the ripples of an ancient sea bed. His stone has been dated to 450 million years.

With no experience operating a quarry, Jim started doing research and visiting other quarries. He also had tests done on the stone to make sure it would hold up under a variety of uses.

"Before architects will even consider it they have to ask, 'Is this stuff going to hold up?'"

Jim gets to know every piece of rock he sells from his quarry. For the most part, he is the sole employee although when big jobs come along he may have as many as six people working part time.

He starts by removing the overburden to expose what tests show is 100 feet of Roubidoux sandstone. Jim carefully examines the rock slab to find natural seams. He then drills holes on the seam with a jack hammer. A hydraulic splitter then is inserted in the hole and used to "bump" the rock into 3- to 4-ton blocks. Jim then hauls it up a steep grade to various buildings were it will either be sawn or split into smaller pieces.

"It took 450 million years to make this and we are trying to pop it out in 5 minutes," Jim says. "It's like a giant jigsaw puzzle."

Frequently the stone comes off in flagstones, thin, flat rocks perfect for walkways and patios. "A lot of quarries have to make flagstone," Jim says. "This is just a gift. You wash it down and look at all those colors."

Wedges are used to open cracks so that the stone can be lifted from the quarry in 3- to 4-ton blocks. Later they will be sawed to the specifications of stone masons or homebuilders.

The colors come from minerals in the soil like iron and manganese. Some of the stone is pure white, much in demand for a more formal look on houses. Other pieces bear ripples, evidence of wave action from what was once a primordial beach.

But getting it out and cutting it to size is just part of the operation. Jim must also get it sold. To do this he has learned to be a real salesman.

Recently the University of Missouri built a new building at the School of Natural Resources. Jim learned the architects would use limestone. That was OK with him, until he discovered the stone would come from Kansas. He pointed out the rivalry between MU and KU and university officials did the right thing and switched to Missouri rock.

When the state added a convention center to Roaring River State Park Jim found a similar lack of consideration for native materials. It didn't take him long to convince the architect that his sandstone was the way to go.

The handpicked pieces of stone used in the massive fireplace at the park immediately catch the eye of anyone who goes there, Jim says. In fact, one Joplin man saw the stone and tracked Jim down for some rock for a house he is building at Grand Lake in Oklahoma.

"I don't do much advertising because the stone advertises itself," Jim says.

Besides the Roaring River job, Jim's sandstone is going into a lot of new projects. The Boone County Library in Columbia will be sided with it. The Rolla recreation center features his rock, as does a building at the St. James golf course. Boys Town in St. James has a sign and entrance made from sandstone.

Jim's helper, Hamdi Oerkue, moves a rock out of the way so that Jim can get by with a huge chunk of sandstone. While heavy equipment makes the job easier, much of the work is done one rock at a time. Most of the time Jim works alone, hiring part-time help to meet big orders. Just about every piece of rock passes through his hands several times before it leaves his business.

Artists are using the stone as a surface for painting. It can be shaped into table tops, bird baths, signs and park benches. "Anything that can be made out of wood can be done with sandstone," Jim says.

He enjoys the turn his life has taken. He walks to work and gets to enjoy all the beauty nature has to offer. The work is hard and the pay could be better but Jim says it's a good life.

"You take it out of the ground, saw it and split it and then you see it on somebody's house and it's all worth it."

For more information about Rosati Sandstone products call Jim DiPardo at (573) 265-8586 or send e-mail to

Rural Missouri | June 2020 Issue

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