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Stone City is an unincorporated community in Jones County, Iowamarker, United Statesmarker. Stone City was founded in 1850 along the banks of the Wapsipinicon River. Early settlers discovered dolomite limestone at the location. Stone City began to quickly grow and with the westward expansion of the railroad the local quarry businesses flourished. By 1880 the population reached five hundred. But in 1905 Portland cement began to be produced in Waterloo, Iowamarker, which sent the Stone City quarries into a near standstill. Today, Stone City is an unincorporated community of less than one hundred.



Columbia Hall
In the late 1800s, Henry Dearborn, John Green, and John Ronen each opened limestone quarries in the area. As the quarry business flourished, a city of stone emerged as hundreds of people settled in the area.First came a three-story, hotel and opera house complex known as Columbia Hall. It was completed in 1883 and made of 500,000 tons of stone. The theater offered some of the most well known entertainers of the day, such as Jenny Lind and General Tom Thumb. Overlooking the town, Green built his twelve-room mansion containing seven Italian marble fireplaces, hand-painted murals, two baths, and a conservatory. Once the house was complete, Green erected more of the city – a railway station, a post office, schoolhouse, a blacksmith shop, water tower, and several houses, all made of stone.


Stone City ruins
By the early 1900s, the advent of Portland cement was having an adverse effect on the economy of the Stone City quarries and one by one they began to shut down. During the next half century, nature reclaimed most of the quarries. Columbia Hall was purchased in the 1930s and torn down in 1938 to use the stone elsewhere. In 1963 the Green Mansion was tragically damaged by fire and torn down in the 1990s.

Historic preservation

Thanks to the vision of George Nissen (the developer of the modern trampoline) the original three-story Stone Barn, the Quarry Office, Water Tower and Ice House are all still standing although they have been converted into private homes. The preservation of these structures, along with St. Joseph’s Catholic Church, Schoolhouse, General Store, Dearborn Residence, Blacksmith Shop and several other private homes has helped revitalize the town with new families without losing the charm of old Stone City.

In 1952 the quarries underwent an economic revival under a new owner. The Stone City quarries have continued to grow and have become one of the largest quarries in the Midwest. The “Stone City quarries” now ship stone all over the United States. The stone from the banks of the Wapsipinicon River can be seen in both old and new construction, not just in Iowa, but across the United States. One of the most recent uses of this limestone can be seen in the new Disney Concert Hallmarker in Los Angelesmarker.


Stone City was immortalized in a painting by Grant Wood in 1930. The painting is now on permanent display at Omaha's Joslyn Art Museum. Stone City, Iowa was Wood's first major landscape. The painting captures the sentiment Wood must have had for the area he lived all his young life. Although Wood did not include all of the buildings of Stone City at the time, many of the buildings featured in the painting still remain today. St. Joseph's Church, the general store, and the blacksmith shop are still there.

To view Grant Wood's painting, follow this link: Stone City, Iowa by Grant Wood

Art colony

Stone City is most famously known because of Stone City Art Colonymarker. In 1932, Grant Wood, Edward Rowan, and Adrian Dornbush established an art colony in Stone City. With little more than $100 and a number of promissory notes based on the success of the art colony they leased of land on the Green Estatemarker. An area of of the estate had been purchased by Frank Nissen in 1920.) The parcel of leased land included the Green Mansion, the Ice House and Water Tower. The upstairs portion of the house was converted into a dormitory. The rest of the house was used for business offices, kitchen, a sculpture studio and showers for the men. The basement of the ice house was made into a bar called The Sickle and Sheaf where instructor/student Dennis Burlingame tended bar. The upper portion of the water tower was converted into an apartment where Adrian Dornbush lived. It was called Adrian’s Tomb. The art colony failed. In terms of attendance and reputation the colony was a huge success. However, it was never a financial success.

Image:Old_Stone_Barn.jpg|Stone Barn built in 1889Image:Stone_Water_Tower.jpg|Stone Water TowerImage:St_Joseph's_Roman_Catholic_Church_Stone_City,_Iowa.JPG|St. Joseph's Church

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