Hokie Stone quarry works to meet demand of growing Virginia Tech campus

As more buildings continue to pop up on campus, the quarry increases production

BLACKSBURG – Graduation day is quickly approaching for students at Virginia Tech. As their friends and family arrive in Blacksburg over the next several days, they'll be greeted by one of the most recognizable features on the campus-- Hokie Stone.

Hokie Stone is the nickname given to the grey limestone rock that covers almost every building and sign on campus. Many people are surprised to learn the stone is mined in Blacksburg, just a few miles from the Virginia Tech campus.

The recognizable rock has covered buildings on campus for more than a century. It dates back to the creation of the performing arts building, which was originally a YMCA, built in 1899. That was the beginning of the movement to transform the classic brick exterior of buildings on campus to one that could stand out from other schools. Over the past 30 years, every building that's gone up on campus has included the stone in one way or another.

Ricky Johnston, the quarry manager, says his crew has recently increased production to meet the growing demand of new buildings on campus. They're currently mining 12 pallets a day or about 60 pallets of the Hokie Stone a week. With each pallet weighing in at 2,300 pounds, that's more than 138,000 pounds of Hokie Stone mined out of the Blacksburg quarry every week.

As the Virginia Tech campus continues to grow, Johnston says he expects his crew to stay just is busy over the next decade as they have been during the past.

"The Moss Arts Center, then the engineering building, Goodwin Hall, the Davidson renovation. All of those buildings were going up and we were hauling right out of the quarry to the job sites," says Johnston.

A new classroom building and Pearson Hall  were both completed in 2016. Add in the new Corps of Cadet dorm and these are all projects that have kept the Hokie Stone quarry working in overdrive.

More than 80 percent of the stone you see on campus comes from the Blacksburg quarry. The remaining stone, a darker grey to black colored stone, is transported into Blacksburg from Luster's Gate.

On a typical mining day, holes are drilled into the rock, which is then blasted from the hillside with black powder. From there, huge chunks of the stone are taken down the hill to be sawed down into small pieces and taken to a hydraulic breaker, which shapes it for the buildings. It's then taken to campus, where it becomes a lasting part of the Virginia Tech tradition.

"It's a good feeling to know that you've been a part of it," says Johnston. "You kind of get caught up in the everyday production and can lose track of that. It's the first thing you see and it's what you recognize Virginia Tech by, the Hokie Stone and the campus-- how good it looks. So it's pretty neat."

Johnston says it doesn't look like there's any risk of running out of the stone. Virginia Tech recently purchased an additional 40 acres of land, all filled with Hokie Stone that can be mined in the future.

It's a tradition that stretches further than just the buildings on campus. A bench made out of Hokie Stone sits in Northern Virginia as an April 16 memorial. It can be found on a full wall inside of the Hotel Roanoke, which is owned by Virginia Tech. The football players touch a small piece of the stone as they run through the tunnel into Lane Stadium on game day. There are even pieces of the stone for sale in the bookstore, so students, alumni and fans can keep a small piece of the tradition with them, long after they've left Blacksburg.