There are a number of naturally occurring stones produced in North America. Per its name, Tennessee marble is quarried in the Eastern part of Tennessee. It has been used for furniture, interiors, and even sculptures, though it is best known for monumental building material. Uses can be seen today in many historical buildings across the United States and Canada, including the National Gallery of Art (Washington, D.C.), United States Capitol (Washington, D.C.), and Union Station (Toronto, Canada). It was greatly quarried throughout the late 19th to early 20th centuries, with the popularity of neoclassical architecture, and the demand for marble high. During this time, there rose over 20 active quarries, and Knoxville, which was where the marble was chiefly produced, was known as “Marble City.”
By 1908, Tennessee was ranked third in the U.S. in marble production, behind Georgia and Vermont. However, in the 1920s, with the Great Depression and rise of more modern architecture, Tennessee marble’s popularity fell into decline, never to truly recover. It saw a brief revival in the 1930s, but with rising foreign competition, and demands for other types of building materials, most of the once flourishing companies producing the stone were to shut down. Today, there are only 6 active quarries of Tennessee marble, all owned by a single company.
Although called marble, Tennessee marble is technically classified as a limestone, as it is sedimentary in nature, while true marbles are metamorphic. It has a distinct, fossiliferous appearance, commonly ranging in colors of pinks & reds, to greys & browns, with jagged horizontal veining.