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Materials in America
Architectural Conservation Audit Slate
Another practice settlers brought to the New World was slate roofing.
Evidence of roofing slates have been found also among the ruins
of mid-17th-century Jamestown. But because of the cost and the time
required to obtain the material, which was mostly imported from
Wales, the use of slate was initially limited.
Even in Philadelphia (the second largest city in the Englishspeaking
world at the time of the Revolution) slates were so rare that "The
Slate Roof House" distinctly referred to William Penn's
home built late in the 1600s.
Sources of native slate were known to exist along the eastern seaboard
from Maine to Virginia, but difficulties in inland transportation
limited its availability to the cities, and contributed to its expense.
Welsh slate continued to be imported until the development of canals
and railroads in the mid19th century made American slate more accessible
Slate was popular for its durability, fireproof qualities, and
aesthetic potential. Because slate was available in different colors
(red, green, purple, and blue-gray), it was an effective material
for decorative patterns on many 19th-century roofs (Gothic
and Mansard styles). Slate continued to be used well into
the 20th century, notably on many Tudor Revival style
buildings of the 1920s.