Here are 15 things you may not know about Rochester's Quarry Hill
Often referred to as the “jewel” of the Rochester Park System, Quarry Hill Park and Nature Center is fairly well-known in the Rochester community.
Recreation trails, a pond, limestone fossil quarries, sandstone caves, a restored oak savanna, and a deciduous forest shape the park’s 329 acres.
Throughout the year, thousands of visitors enjoy hiking, biking, picnicking, bird watching, fishing, fossil hunting, skiing and snowshoeing, and various educational programming.
However, there is a rich history, vibrant present, and promising future that is relatively unknown to the average person. The following is a list of 15 things you probably didn’t know about Quarry Hill:
The Hospital and Cemetery
Quarry Hill Park was originally part of the former Rochester State Hospital farm before being purchased from the state by the City of Rochester in 1965.
The hospital was first named the Asylum for Inebriates. The asylum, created in 1876, was also called the Second State Hospital for the Insane prior to being renamed the Rochester State Hospital.
There are 2,019 grave sites on the Quarry Hill property. The individuals buried in the 2 ½-acre cemetery were patients at the State Hospital in the late 1800s, with the oldest grave dating back to 1886.
The first black male slave freed by Abraham Lincoln is buried in the Rochester State Hospital Cemetery. William Henry Costley, according to researchers, was just 10 months old in 1841 when Lincoln, a young lawyer at the time, won a case before the Illinois Supreme Court that freed his mother Nance Legins-Costley from indentured servitude, a status equal to slavery.
A project is currently underway to properly mark all of the graves. Lead by the Rochester State Hospital Recognition Group, old hospital records are being researched to identify remains in the cemetery and place headstones for those found.
The caves at Quarry Hill were excavated in 1882 to serve as a cellar for the storage of many vegetables grown on the State Hospital farm. A crew of six hospital patients dug the series of caves.
The main cave is in the shape of a horseshoe so that wagons could go in one end, drop off or load supplies, and continue without having to back up.
Another cave on site, known as the mortuary cave, was used by hospital workers to store bodies until the ground thawed enough to bury those who died over the winter. Due to land erosion, this cave is blocked off from the public.
There are two quarries in the park. Some of the best fossils are found in the “old quarry."
Fossils found in the quarry pre-date dinosaurs by nearly 250 million years.
Commonly found fossils among the limestone layers are sea creature remains from the Ordovician era.
Quarry Hill’s Exploration Hall houses a cast replica Tyrannosaurus Rex skull of STAN, the most complete Tyrannosaurus Rex specimen found to date.
The 329-acre park offers more than eight miles of trails.
Each year, more than 2,300 kids attend summer camps at Quarry Hill.
Quarry Hill is a federal bird banding station. Over the past 35 years, licensed banders have banded more than 20,000 birds for research purposes.
About Brian Olson: Born and raised in Rochester, Brian enjoys spending time with his wife, Emily, and their two children, Henry (1) and Finleigh (4), and their golden doodle rescue dog Duke (age unknown). When not playing Dad, Brian works as a marketer, enjoys traveling, and can’t seem to get off the roller coaster that comes with being an avid Minnesota sports fan. Twitter.
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(Cover photo: Chad Johnson Photography)