Naperville limestone quarry
Naperville quarry, late nineteenth century
Martin quarry closed for winter season, circa 1900
“I arrived in Chicago on the first of July…. I then… took the stage for Naper’s Settlement. They have the finest of building stone in inestimable quantities when cut and polished they look like marble... There is so much building going on everywhere that it is impossible to get material,” wrote Morris Sleight to his wife in 1836. Like Sleight, George Martin and his family must have seen the demand for one of the region’s greatest natural resources, limestone. But it was George Martin that realized that it was the rock quarries, and not the farm, that would make him his fortune. After his father died when he was fifteen, Martin tended not only the family farm but also his father’s interest in a quarry on the DuPage River. In the 1850s, Martin had developed a commercial quarry that was advertising lime and building stone in the local paper. After the Chicago Fire in 1871, stone and gravel were at a premium. By 1872 Martin, along with partner Ernst Von Oven, had developed another business, the Naperville Tile and Brick Works. The timing was perfect. Demand for stone and brick was rising with the building boom in Chicago, Naperville and surrounding towns. Masonry buildings were climbing higher and higher as the modern age approached—much of it founded on the limestone, brick, sand and gravel of Martin’s enterprises.