Indiana University limestone

Limestone is a sedimentary rock, composed mainly of skeletal fragments of marine organisms such as coral, forams, and molluscs. Its major materials are the minerals calcite and aragonite, which are different crystal forms of calcium carbonate, CaCO3. (Wikipedia)

For more than 135 years, limestone has also provided the preferred finishing material for the home of Bloomington’s best-known resident: Indiana University. (Lee Sandweiss)


Above, a close-up of skeletal fragments in the brutalist facade of Wiekamp Hall* on the IU South Bend campus. The Indiana University Campus Limestone Tour map features photographs and descriptions of thirty buildings featuring limestone exteriors on the large Bloomington campus of IU. Guided walking tours are available that explore the range of styles visible in the major campus buildings:

“Popular architectural styles get revisited,” explained [Brian] Keith. “There is a blend of styles on the IU campus, including variations on Gothic—Victorian Gothic and Collegiate Gothic, in particular—Romanesque Revival, Second Empire, Art Deco and Modern. There is even a style that’s actually ‘no style,’ which we call a functional building.” (Lee Sandweiss)

Limestone weighs about 150 pounds per cubic foot and can be dangerous to work with. Fatalities in the quarrying, preparation, and construction phases of using limestone for building exteriors are not unknown.

The limestone industry forms an important part of southern Indiana history and culture. It has inspired literary works by notable Hoosier writers such as Scott Russell Sanders.

When residents of Indiana visit a campus of their largest state university, they can expect to see buildings faced with metonymic and synecdochic Indiana limestone.


*According to campus lore, when Wiekamp Hall was bid out for construction, the cost of the limestone was too high and a message was sent to the state’s quarry companies saying that it would be unfortunate if this major building would be the first in the state-wide IU system without a limestone facade. The story concludes with the limestone being offered at a much-reduced price.