News Release, Kansas Geological Survey, August 8, 1997
But a variety of rocks, fossils, and other geologic features are on display in the heart of the state's largest city, according to a new book published by the Kansas Geological Survey, based at The University of Kansas.
The book, Wichita's Building Blocks: A Guide to Building Stones and Geological Features, describes the geologic features in a number of the city's buildings, including a walking tour of geologically notable locations in Wichita's downtown. The book also pinpoints geologic features in other parts of Sedgwick County, such as oil wells, gypsum outcrops, and unusual rock formations.
"This book is a way to help people see and understand some of the interesting things that they may walk past every day," said the book's author, Survey geologist Lawrence Skelton.
For example, Skelton describes the limestone, quarried near Silverdale in Cowley County, that was used in the former Wichita City Hall. Marble in St. Mary's Cathedral on the corner of Broadway and Central probably came from the Carrara quarries in northwestern Italy, near the same location where Michelangelo obtained marble for his sculptures.
Other downtown buildings incorporate limestone from Indiana, marble from Wisconsin, and granite from Minnesota, Oklahoma, and Vermont.
The book includes a number of color and black-and-white photographs of the features, along with a map showing their exact location.
Skelton is manager of the Survey's well sample library in Wichita. He received his master's degree in geology from Wichita State University in 1990, and is president of the Kansas Geological Society.
Skelton said that one of his favorite downtown stops is the Kress Energy Center at the northwest corner of Douglas and Broadway, where the floor is made from brown and gray travertine, probably imported from Italy. Travertine is a rock formed by flowing water, such as a spring, waterfall, or slow-moving stream.
Skelton said that keeping up with changes in downtown architecture, during the writing of the book, proved to be a challenge.
"I was surprised at the rapidity with which buildings changed," said Skelton. "The marble was removed from the facing of one building, another building was torn down. And the banks, of course, were constantly changing names."
Copies of the book are available from the Kansas Geological Survey's Well Sample Library (316-943-2343) at 4150 Monroe in Wichita. The cost is $7.50, plus includes sales tax, shipping, and handling. Copies are also available from the Survey's Lawrence office (at 785-864-3965).