Marking Time highlights one of the more than 2,500 markers that have been installed throughout the state since 1914 as part of the Pennsylvania Historical Marker Program, operated by PHMC's State Historic Preservation Office.

Two miles south of the Dauphin County community of Hummelstown remain indelible reminders of one of Pennsylvania’s most recognized contributions to nineteenth-and early twentieth-century architecture,the gaping quarries of the Hummelstown Brownstone Company. Between 1863 and 1929, the company excavated the peculiarly colored sandstone, formed millions of years ago, which is among the finest found in the United States. Many buildings and structures throughout Pennsylvania, along the East Coast, and as far west as Chicago include schools, churches, libraries, railroad stations, post offices, residences, banks, apartment houses, courthouses, bridges, canal locks, and garden walls. A number of buildings constructed partly or wholly with brownstone excavated at Hummelstown have been added to the National Register of Historic Places, administered for the Commonwealth by the Bureau for Historic Preservation of the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission (PHMC).

What began as a modest, three-acre quarry ultimately expanded to an enormous operation covering a thousand acres and employing 600 laborers and skilled stonecutters at its peak. The land’s original owners, several generations of the Berst family, were Pennsylvania German farmers who had used the stone for dwellings, barns, a wall enclosing a small family cemetery — even an outhouse. The Pennsylvania Brown Free Stone Company, reorganized in 1891 by entrepreneur Allen Walton as the Hummelstown Brownstone Company, produced 4.4 million cubic yards of stone. Four of the five quarries are still] visible, but a housing development has since obliterated the fifth pit, the smallest because it produced a vein of blue stone that is extremely hard and difficult to cut. The first and third pits produced a purplish stone, and pit number two yielded a rosy-pink stone. The fourth and largest pit, opened in 1888—relatively late in the company’s history — produced the popular and durable chocolate colored stone.The site once buzzed with hundreds of Italian, German, Scots-Irish, and eastern European immigrants, many of whom lived in the nearby company town of Waltonville, who noisily blasted, sawed, shaped, and carved the stone. Belching steam locomotives once hauled tons of brown-stone blocks from the quarries to contractors and building sites. Today, however, water-filled quarries, overgrown with trees and underbrush, placidly contrast with a community that produced what was literally among the finest building blocks of America.

Recognizing its significant contribution to American architecture and engineering, the U.S. Department of the Interior added the area encompassing Hummelstown’s brownstone quarries to the National Register of Historic Places in 2003. On October 29, 2005, the PHMC unveiled a state historical marker at 104 East Main Street in Hummelstown to commemorate the role the company played in producing the distinctive—and now distinguished—material that literally helped build America.