D.C. December 28, 2017
There’s a An Amazing Story Behind These Ruins Near DC
DC is chock-full of history but it’s not a city that has lots of ruins. We tend to rebuild when builds become decrepit. There are a few ruins here and there that one can find in DC, including the Seneca Quarry. These ruins hidden along the C&O Canal in nearby Maryland have an amazing story behind them!
The ruins of Seneca Quarry are located along the C&O Canal on the north bank of the Potomac River.
Seneca Red Sandstone was a popular stone in the 1700 and 1800s. Known as redstone, it was prized for its ease of cutting, durability and bright color. During this time, there many quarries located along the C&O Canal because it provided a way for the heavy sandstone to reach DC.
The Seneca quarry was one of the most well known quarries of the day and while it doesn't look like much now, it played a huge role in the development of DC.
The Seneca quarry was originally owned by the Peter family of Georgetown. They owned the quarry in the early 1800s and eventually built a stone cutting mill right next to the quarry.
It was during this period that the quarry won the contract for the Smithsonian Castle. The bright red coloring of the famous castle in DC came from this local quarry.
The Seneca Sandstone Company purchased the quarry in 1866. They expanded the quarry and the stonecutting mill for a years. But they ended up having financial troubles and went bankrupt in 1876. Their bankruptcy was attributed to scandal and financial mis-management. The troubles reached as far as the White House and President Ulysses S. Grant because he (and many other prominent Republicans) owned stock in the company. While there was an investigation by Congress, no charges were pressed.
The quarry reopened under new management a few times before finally closing up shop for good in the early 1900s.
Before it closed, the quarry provided stone for many of the most famous buildings in DC including houses in the Dupont Circle and Adams Morgan area, the Washington aqueduct, Cabin John Bridge, the Washington Aqueduct Dam at Great Falls, McClellan Gate at Arlington National Cemetery, as well as the mile-long boundary wall that surrounds the cemetery.
Even though the quarry played an important role in DC architecture, it's largely forgotten. Anyone can visit the ruins of the mill and the quarry. It's best to park at Riley's Lock at 13015 Rileys Lock Road in Poolesville, Maryland and then hike to the ruins hidden in the woods.
Did you know these ruins existed?
Explore other ruins around DC on these cool hikes!