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
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."
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
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.
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."
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
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.
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.