With the arrival of the Northern Pacific Railroad in Tenino in the 1870s came the prospectors and businessmen searching for a new way to build the growing cities of Western United States. Seattle would burn to the ground just one year after sandstone was discovered in the Tenino valley (followed by the San Francisco fire in 1906) and the need for a stronger, more permanent building material was found in the local sandstone. By the 1910s Tenino was home to three sandstone quarries and the downtown business corridor was lined with stone architecture advertising the possibilities of the cut-stone industry.
Preserved today at Tenino's City Park as the public swimming pool, the first sandstone quarry was opened in 1889 by S.W. Fenton and George Van Tine.
By 1903 the Hercules Sandstone Company, a competing quarry at the west end of town opened for business in the cut-stone trade and began acquiring additional stone quarries all around the Pacific Northwest. Hercules #1 (as the western Tenino quarry was named) was founded by Hans Peter “Horsepower” Scheel. A widely used stone in its day, Tenino sandstone was used to construct Seattle's first public library and the east wing of Washington's first Capitol Building, among other notable buildings as far reaching as San Francisco and Missoula, MT. At the height of its popularity the Hercules Sandstone Company employed over 400 people. But the popularity of dimensional cut stone would soon plummet with the advent cheaper materials: brick, steel and concrete.
In the years before the First World War the Hercules Sandstone Company increased its holdings to six different quarries of sandstone and granite all over western Washington and entered a contract with the United States government to blast for jetty rock. At the outbreak of the war the government used the escape clause to exit the contract and the Hercules Sandstone Company went into bankruptcy.
Andrew Wilson, a stonecutter trained in Scotland and once employed by the Tenino Sandstone Company purchased the defunct Hercules One quarry (renaming it the Western Quarry) and hired the sons of HP Scheel to work for him. Larry and Walt Scheel worked in the quarry until it finally closed again in the late 1930s. The names of Walt and his father HP can still be seen carved into the quarry wall 60 ft in the air, as many of the quarrymen did every time the floor was lowered.
Today, of Tenino’s three infamous quarries one is now a swimming pool inside the City Park, another (the Eureka quarry at the eastern edge of town) was the site of the “largest single blast ever discharged in the US”, a quarry of which little remains today. Only the Hercules #1 quarry at the west end remains in tact. Though not an active quarry the Tenino Stone Carvers maintain a workshop at this location and offer tours by appointment only.