Metamorphic Rocks in The Old Stone Church, Pickens County, South Carolina
Building Image
      The bulding shown above is the Old Stone Church in Pickens County, South Carolina, on U.S. Highway 76 between Pendleton and Clemson. The church was built in the late 1700s, and in its cemetery rest the remains of so many famous denizens of the region that the church has been called "The Westminster Abbey of the Upcountry".

     Local accounts claim that the church was built of "stones were gathered by farmers from their fields". The diversity of metamorphic rock types, mostly gneisses, visible in the walls supports that claim (see below). Most of the Piedmont consists of a bewildering array of high-grade metamorphic rocks, and the builders seem to have sampled it well.

Stone Image
Stone Image
      The church was damaged by an earthquake, perhaps the Charleston earthquake of 1886, and it was reconstructed in the 1960s. Local accounts say that "it was necessary to take the church apart stone by stone and rebuild the entire structure." If so, the present structure might be better described as "a structure built in the 1960s using the materials and architecture of a church built on the same spot in the late 1700s".

      The restorers found the weathered field stones sufficiently hard to work with that they almost covered them all with mortar; the images above show that the surface is as much mortar as stone. Comparison with Lumpkin House in Athens, Georgia, shows that the restorers' frustrations were not unusual for anyone working with uncut pieces of Piedmont gneiss. The irregularity of the shapes of chunks of gneiss almost inevitably leads to a mortar-rich wall like that in the Old Stone Church. On the other hand, Washington Hall at West Point, New York, shows that cut gneiss can provide geometrically convenient building stone requiring proportionately little mortar - if one cuts the gneiss.



Back to the Index for these pages