Field trip to the Tenino Sandstone Quarry

Seattle author and geologist David Williams has a wonderful website focusing on ‘Urban Geology’ which he describes as the ‘interfingering between people and rock’ . His February 23rd, 2010 story tells us about the Tenino sandstone quarry, in that small town SE of Olympia and NE of Centralia. He takes us for a tour of the working quarry, where sandstone building and sculpture blocks are cut. David is the author of  Stories in Stone- Travels Through Urban Geology which can be ordered from Powell’s if your local book store can’t get it (support your local book store!). This is a great read. There is a new link to David’s website in the column at right.

I visited Tenino as I was passing through the area earlier this month, thinking a visit to the quarry would make a great field trip. I couldn’t get ahold of anyone to take me around the gated quarry, so put it aside for another time. David has done the job, and very well at that. If you visit Tenino, check out the Sandstone Cafe. What geologist could pass that up? And the grub is good, too. Stroll down the block to see the Tenino Bank. Can’t miss it. You can see that the builders of the old buildings downtown supported their local sandstone quarry.


Downtown Tenino; the Sandstone Cafe is at center.

The Tenino Bank


2 Responses

  1. Dave,
    Thanks for the mention. There is an interesting story in regard to your lower photo, which highlights a solid column of Tenino sandstone. Keith Phillips told me that when the column was first erected the stone was very green–meaning it had not sat out and been seasoned–and therefore still contained water, or quarry sap. Soon after the column was in place, the temperature dropped and one of the quarry workers ended up building a fire in a 50 gallon drum next to the column so that he could keep the column warm and prevent the water in it from freezing and perhaps ruining the column. I guess he had to stay there for several days.

  2. In regards to the Tenino Quarry: Washington Geology, vol 21, number 4, December 1993 ran a story titled “Washington’s Stone Industry- A History”. The cover photo shows the Tenino quarry, and the article includes a number of interesting old photos, including several of the Tenino quarry. The public swimming pool in Tenino is worth visiting. It was created by allowing stream water to fill an abandoned sandstone quarry, and it is the most scenic swimming pool I’ve ever seen.

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