An Unexpected Find
In the 18th century, Welsh settlers investigating the natural riches of Virginia uncovered a vast store of unusual slate; deep-blue-black color, it glittered in the sun. Impressed, they used this wonder-rock to build new homes. This slate would prove to be the most lasting, unfading, and popular slate product available anywhere: Buckingham Slate.
Over time, innumerable local quarries formed to extract and capitalize on this valuable material. And while Buckingham Slate can last centuries, of all these quarries only the Buckingham Slate Quarry, Arvonia, VA, remains as one of America’s oldest operating quarries.
As it happens, the Appalachian region is rich with different slate types, unique in color, hardness, and texture. Buckingham Slate, for instance, is tremendously hard and long lasting. With a lifespan measured in centuries, it commonly outlasts the buildings it roofed, reused time and again, recycled from one project to the next. In contrast, softer products like Chapman slate are beautifully colored but fragile and short-lived. They are recycled less often, but produce less waste than any synthetic alternative. Of the three, you can be confident that Buckingham Slate is the most environmentally friendly.
Beyond its utility, Buckingham Slate is best known for its blue-black coloring and distinctive glossy shine. Buckingham Slate contains an unusually high amount of the mineral quartz, giving it a high-gloss shine. On sunny days, these slates can reflect the intensity of the sun; take care to avoid being dazzled by any roof clad in Buckingham Slate.
For slate, already literal eons in the making, beauty and longevity are comfortable friends. And this is especially true for Buckingham Slate. Discovered during America's birth, Buckingham Slate products have lasted only as long as our country is old. The best data we have for its durability is only as young as we are - no telling how far it, or we, can go. Each passing year is new proof of our mutual resilience.
Student of history and future-forward thinker, Thomas Jefferson, saw the value of Buckingham Slate and insisted that it be used to construct the University of Virginia and various high-profile homes and buildings throughout Virginia. A wise investment to be sure; that same slate can be seen on those buildings to this day. Expanding to the Mid-Atlantic region, you can find Buckingham Slate on Harvard University, Ford’s Theatre, The Smithsonian Castle, Gonzaga University in Washington state, and more.
A more recent case study: All Saints Church in Chevy Chase, Maryland, first used Buckingham Slate to roof its original building. But two expansions, first in the 1920s and again in the 1940s, would use a less durable black slate. At the time, it matched the original and was a convincing alternative. The immense pressure of time and natural wear drained this black slate to a drab brown, leaving it a fragile and jagged mess. Worse still, the expansions no longer matched the original building, crowned with the superior and long-lasting Buckingham Slate. The mismatch was obvious and something had to be done.
The Durable Slate Company was able to restore the mismatched roof with true Buckingham Slate. Now, each of All Saints' buildings are built with the same lasting slate.