Aquia sandstone, quarried from Stafford’s Government Island, will be the star of a special symposium at the White House in Washington, D.C., on May 2 as well as the centerpiece of an ongoing exhibit in Scotland. For this event, the White House Historical Association and the Historic Environment Scotland have joined together to create this symposium and exhibit as Scottish stonemasons helped create the original carvings in the White House.
At the symposium, Charles Jones, a master stonemason with Historic Environment Scotland, and Dale Lupton, a National Park Service stonemason, will carve a “Double Scottish Rose” into stone from Government Island provided by the National Park Service. The rose design feature is modeled after the lintels above the doors at the White House. The two stonemasons recently visited Government Island, a treasured park in Stafford County, to see the quarry first hand. The island was known in the early days of our country’s history as a landmark for its “great rock.” And that rock, made of Aquia Sandstone, was eventually quarried for use at the White House and Capitol building.
“Government Island played an important role in the building of our nation’s capital, and I am so pleased the White House Historical Association and the Historic Environment Scotland is recognizing that history,” said Meg Bohmke, Chairman of the Stafford Board of Supervisors. “One of our local historians, Jane Conner, came to us years ago and asked us to help her preserve this treasured piece of history. Now, we have this incredible park where marks are still visible from the workers that hand-chiseled the stone that built the White House, which is forever preserved.”
The island has received other media interest on multiple television shows, and a news program focused on the White House. Jane Conner’s quest to save the park evolved into a book she wrote entitled “Birthstone of the White House and Capitol,” which is a comprehensive history of Government Island and the “freestone” or Aquia sandstone quarried there. Other notable buildings built with Aquia sandstone include Christ Church in Alexandria and Gunston Hall in Fairfax County.
Government Island is accessible via Coal Landing Road and has proven to be a favorite attraction for visitors. Today this 17-acre park is a historical, scenic nature preserve and archaeological site. It has a boardwalk, ideal for observing aquatic and native plants, birds and other wildlife. Other amenities include a 1.5-mile trail (the first two trail segments are handicap accessible), and interpretive signs to help educate visitors on the rich, nationally significant history. Government Island is a scenic heritage trail, and also on the National Register of Historic Places and the Virginia Landmarks Register.
Photo: Local historian Jane Conner points out an item of interest on Government Island to Scottish stonemason Charles Jones.