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Published July 12, 2013, 10:40 AM

125-year-old limestone plant closes in Mankato

MANKATO, Minn. (AP) — Mankato Kasota Stone, a company that spent 125 years quarrying the distinctive limestone used on handsome buildings in Minnesota and around the U.S., is closing its doors.

MANKATO, Minn. (AP) — Mankato Kasota Stone, a company that spent 125 years quarrying the distinctive limestone used on handsome buildings in Minnesota and around the U.S., is closing its doors.

The company cited difficult economic conditions for its decision. It means that the Mankato area, once home to at least a half-dozen companies mining the Kasota stone, has only one left.

"This has been very difficult," co-owner Robert Coughlan told The Free Press. "I'm the fourth generation of our family to do this. We kept it (open) probably longer than we should have just for sentimental reasons."

Kasota stone is favored for its warm colors of cream, buff, gold and pink, as well as for durability and texture that includes crushed sea fossils. It can be seen on the Twins' Target Field, as well as on many public buildings and private homes in the area. Nationally, it's used on the Camp Pendleton Marine Base, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the University of Wisconsin's Gordon Commons in Madison and the Chicago Botanical Gardens, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reported.

"It's a beautiful stone, and it is so versatile," Paul Lawton, a Mankato architect who has designed many projects using the material, told the Star Tribune. "It's more than just a local product. It has been used all over."

But many architects have been turning to cheaper, prefabricated materials or brick, glass and steel instead of the Kasota stone. Coughlan said the market for Kasota stone has been down since 2009. His company is laying off or reassigning to another family business more than two dozen employees. The company is trying to transition into a new business mining silica sand, a key ingredient in hydraulic fracturing for oil and natural gas.

The demise of Mankato Kasota Stone leaves Vetter Stone as the sole area company still working the Mankato quarries. Cold Spring Granite also leases some land but processes the material at its hometown plant.

Mining is Mankato's oldest industry. Its first quarry opened a year after the town was founded in 1858.

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