Rosendale cement was a natural hydraulic cement that was produced in and around Rosendale, New York, beginning in 1825. From 1818 to 1970 natural cements were produced in over 70 locations in the United States and Canada. More than half of the 35 million tons of natural cement produced in the United States originated with cement rock mined in Ulster County, New York, in and around the Town of Rosendale in the Hudson River Valley. The Rosendale region of southeastern New York State is widely recognized as the source of the highest quality natural cement in North America. The Rosendale region was also coveted by geologist, such as, W. W. Mather, a geologist working for the State of New York, for its unusual exposed bedrock.` Because of its reputation, Rosendale cement was also used as both a trade name and as a generic term referring to any natural hydraulic cement. It was used in the construction of many of the United States' most important landmarks, including the Brooklyn Bridge, the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty, Federal Hall National Memorial, and the west wing of the United States Capitol building.
Rosendale natural cement from the Rosendale area was produced from fine-grained, high silica and alumina dolostone mined from the Rosendale and Whiteport members of the late Silurian rondout formation. Although composition varied, one text quotes CaCO3 45.91%, MgCO3 25.14%, silica and insoluble 15.37%, Al203 and Fe203 11.38%, water and undetermined 1.20%. The natural levels of carbonates and silica along with alumina in the dolostone from the Rondout Formation are ideally suited for cement production.
Calcination and grindingEdit
Natural cement is produced in a process that begins with the calcination of crushed dolostone in large brick kilns. The resulting clinker is ground into progressively smaller particles. The final product is a fine powder of 50 mesh size. Unlike Portland cement, Rosendale cement does not require mixing of chemical additives. Historically, this natural cement product was packaged in paper-lined wooden barrels weighing 300 lbs or in heavy canvas bags.
It all began during an excavation for the Delaware and Hudson Canal led by Canvass White (White is best remembered for his engineering work on the Erie Canal) in 1825. The execution uncovered a large deposit of limestone that would soon become the foundation of the Rosendale natural cement industry. The fast-setting combonation of cement and water in Rosendale cement mortars proved more efficient than traditional mortars composted of lime and sand. Soon, the US Military realized the potentials and advantages in constructing military fortifications with natural cement, thus began the long-term use of Rosendale cement by the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers.
According to Dietrich Werner, the former president of the Century House Historical Society, the proximity of the Rosendale region to the Delaware and Hudson Canal enabled the production and shipment of the natural cement. Soon, Rosendale cement could be found in all major American east coast ports and in the West Indies.
With the onset of the American Industrial revolution the demand for cement increased. Roads, damns, power plants, bridges, and various North American government projects such as the construction of cisterns, wet cellars, the Croton Aqueduct system were rapidly being built throughout the American landscape. All of these structures utilized Rosendale natural cement. In addition to large structures, natural cement was also used to create mortars, stuccos, lime-washes, grouts, and concretes. In the final year of the 19th century, Rosendale’s cement industry peaked, producing nearly 10 million barrels a year. Remnants of cement operations including kilns and the Widow Jane mine are preserved in the Snyder Estate Natural Cement Historic District.
Portland cement and the decline of RosendaleEdit
By the 20th century, buildings required stronger cement for construction. By 1897 a synthetic product called portland cement rapidly became the most popular building material. In addition to being stronger, portland cement took a shorter amount of time to set. While Rosendale cement had been popular for the foundation of buildings (e.g. Statue of Liberty, Capitol Building, Brooklyn Bridge) and lining of water pipes, its long curing time and expense relative to Portland cement made it unpopular after World War I. By the 1920's many states and construction firms used the more popular portland cement to construct highways, bridges and monuments. In the mid 20th century the cement industry began to experiment by combining natural cement, such as Rosendale, with sythentic portland cement. Notable structures built out of this hybrid are: New York’s Rockefeller Center in the late 1930s, the New York State Thruway in the 1950s, and the St. Lawrence Seaway in the late 1950s and early 1960s.
By 1970 the last of the Rosendale, NY cement mines had closes. Only six year later, natural cement (as a finished product) ceased to be produced altogether. Natural cement was not available in the United States for over thirty years.
Revival and present day productionEdit
While the natural cement industry declined in the early 20th century, demand was later revived by efforts to restore historic buildings and structures using historically accurate materials. This led to the re-opening in 2004 of the historic Hickory Bush Quarry in Rosendale, New York, operated by Freedom Cement, which currently sells authentic Rosendale cement under the Century Brand trademark. This product has been used in the restoration of Fort Jefferson National Monument in Florida and the High Bridge in New York City, both of which were originally built using natural cement. Another company, Edison Coatings, continues the tradition of liberal use of the name "Rosendale cement" to market its natural hydraulic cement, though the materials for this product are extracted elsewhere. Unlike the exhausted or inaccessible sources elsewhere, the mines in Rosendale, New York, still hold countless accessible tons of the highest quality natural cement rock, capable of supplying long-term future needs.
In 2006, industry standards for the performance properties of natural cement were reintroduced by ASTM International under ASTM C10, Standard Specification for Natural Cement. Over the past ten years, The Society for the Preservation of Historic Cements, Inc has hosted three conferences on American Natural Cement that attract experts across disciplines, including geologists, engineers, preservationists, historians and architects.
- Werner, Dietrich; Burmeister, Kurtis (2007). "An Overview of the History and Economic Geology of the Natural Cement Industry at Rosendale, Ulster County, New York". Journal of ASTM International. 4 (6): 100672. doi:10.1520/JAI100672. Retrieved 24 October 2015.
- Edison, Michael P. (2007). "Formulating with Rosendale Natural Cement" (PDF). Journal of ASTM International. 4.
- Werner, Dietrich (2007). "An Overview of the History and Economic Geology of the Natural Cement Industry at Rosendale, Ulster County, New York". Journal of ASTM International. 4 (6): 1–14 – via ASTM Compass.
- "History of Rosendale Cement". www.rosendalecement.net. Retrieved 2018-12-11.
- Wanless, Harold rollin (1921). "Final Report on the History of the Rosendale Cement District"
- Levine, David (2013). "A History of Rosendale's Natural Cement Industry Cementing its reputation: Modern America could not have been built without Rosendale cement". line feed character in
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- Skye, Stepen (2006). "The Rosendale Cement Industry". The Neversink Valley Museum of History & Innovation.
- "NaturalCement.org". www.naturalcement.org. Retrieved 2018-12-08.
- Edison, Leyla. "Perspectives: The Reintroduction of Natural Cement". Journal of ASTM International,. 4: xi.
- "The Century House Historical Society".
- "History of Rosendale Cement". www.rosendalecement.net. Retrieved 2018-12-08.
- Edison, Michael P., "The American Natural Cement Revival", January 2006, ASTM Standardization News.
- "Century Brand® Natural Cement", Freedom Cement, LLC.
- "Rosendale Natural Cement Products", Edison Coatings, Inc.
- "ASTM C10, Standard Specification for Natural Cement", ASTM International.
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