Around 520 million years ago the sandy beaches that would become Potsdam sandstone were laid down as marine waters began to encroach upon the continent.


As the waters continued to move towards the northwest, these beaches were submerged and then slowly covered by sediment that settled out of the sea. This sediment would eventually become thousands of feet of stone (called dolomite), which would later erode, exposing the sandstone below.

It was Sir John Johnson (a loyalist leader during the American Revolution) who first took notice of the stone and its potential as a building material. This was while he followed the Racquette River through Hannawa Falls, on his way to Montreal, as he fled colonial forces sent for his arrest in 1776.

However, it would not be until after 1809, with the establishment of the Parmeter quarry south of the Village of Potsdam, that this often colorful stone would be put to use in construction.

*courtesy the Potsdam Public Museum

“Sandstone buildings are scattered across the St. Lawrence Valley, but Potsdam Village offers a unique concentration that includes residences, offices and stores, churches, civic buildings, a railroad depot, technical college, normal school, water plant, power plant and a cemetery gatehouse. These structures give the village a formal dress and timeless quality—a reminder of the dignity of work and the skills of 19th century workmen whose first language was not necessarily English.”

~ James Carl from “The Origin of Potsdam Sandstone”