What exactly was StoneKote?

Avalon Motor Hotel StoneKote

Last week, reader Carl mentioned the Avalon Motor Lodge in Biloxi and wondered about the history.  I could not turn up much, but located an article about renovating the Avalon with “Stonekote–a veneer of stone-like material that encases the building in a permanent reinforced shell and requires no insulation or paint and is fireproof.”  Knowing how much Malvaney just adores fake building materials like DryVit, I undertook a little sleuthing to get the true scoop on Stonekote.  You can see for yourself the results in the above “Before” and “After” photographs of the Avalon Motor Lodge, which are starting to look a lot like early DryVit (Biloxi Daily Herald, February 29, 1952).

The history of Stonekote seems a bit more complex, however, than just encasing a building in a stone-like veneer.  First off, Stonekote (or some version thereof) made its appearance as early as 1910 in references to the Chicago Garden City Sand Company’s “cement stucco” that “offers you a mighty field of profit” according to the 1922 Building Supply News.  Sears, Roebuck, and Company offered a kit home that featured Stonekote as one of the possible finishes, and described it as a “stucco-type covering.”

A review of kit homes for Raleigh described (and pictured) a 1913 catalog description of Stonekote as “cement plaster” and the example resembled wood siding, although referenced as “stucco.”  Other sources describe it as “colored Portland cement stucco.”

The ad below came from the 1920 Terra Haute Saturday Spectator.  Later that same year, an ad called Stonekote:

…permanent, plastic, weatherproof colored waterproof cement stucco…makes a solid rock wall of flint and plastic cement, impervious to water, indestructible by fire or the elements…the cling of Stonekote is so strong that it cannot be separated from the base to which it is applied. 

1920 ad

Apparently, the Gulf Coast jumped on the bandwagon in rushing to utilize the “combination of rock fibre and earth’s minerals” that was considered a “plastic wonder material in many beautiful stone designs and colors.”StoneKote on Gulf Coast in 1950s

In addition to the Avalon Motor Lodge, the Butler Courts on West Beach and the Jules Cash Grocery on Highway 90 in Pascagoula also “facelifted” their buildings with Stonekote.

Billed as both a remodeling approach to renovate and update, and also suitable for new construction, it appeared popular in many homes in the 1950s.  One such neighborhood is Birch Street in Blytheville, Arkansas, which still has a presence of Stonekote houses, even if some are suffering from preservation fail.

How about your neighborhood?  Any Stonekote houses on your block?

Crosssection



Categories: Architectural Research, Biloxi, Historic Preservation, Pascagoula

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19 replies

  1. Excellent topic and post! I couldn’t enlarge the detail cross section in the ads to determine what the three coating layers consist of. I imaging the first two are a cement base, but is the outer layer a scored stucco or can it be actual set brick stone or tile?

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    • I can enlarge the illustration for you. It appears that the outer coat is scored, as it refers to it as “tooled.” I will enlarge that section and add it up above!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Thank you for the enlargement. It has inspired me to dig into my books. Surprising to me Architectural Graphic Standards ed. 4 or 5 do not have any information on exterior stucco or stonekote even though they do some times cover proprietary systems. My copy of House Construction Details c1969 does have a paragraph or two on artificial stone stucco I’ll have to share with you.

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  2. Don’t know what the outside material is on this house on W. Jackson St. in Tupelo. It’s a swirly-looking pattern.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Interesting! I’d wondered about Mississippi houses that looked as though they were covered in Formstone which is a mid-Atlantic states phenomenon, particularly in the city of Baltimore. According to Wikipedia, there were various brand names of this similar product around the country: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Formstone

    John Waters called Formstone “the polyester of brick.”

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    • The polyester of brick–you just gotta love the sound of that. :)

      Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for the link to the Formstone page. After reading the patent for the process I have a new found respect for this product. The amount of effort to individually stamp, color and tool each block has elevated the application of these systems to an art form in my eyes. I had been under the incorrect hypothesis that they were precast and colored at a factory.

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      • Why, you’re very welcome! John Waters and other naysayers aside, I have generally found it to be attractive (there is the occasional oddity). It is certainly durable, too. I don’t really see how it’s any different from the tooling concrete into limestone blocks that I’ve seen a lot of lately on the Old Capitol and now, the new Civil Rights Museum.

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        • Ha just like polyester, stonekote has its applications. It is similar to the Old Capitol with tooling and coloring. The stonekote blocks appear add to the difficulty by being three dimensional with a rock or distressed face.

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    • Included in the links to the article was one on “unmuddling” or taking off Formstone. Very interesting read!

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  4. I may hate Dryvit, but I’m a sucker for old construction material advertisements! Thanks for digging these up and inspiring us all to take good detail shots of exterior siding.

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  5. The Avalon must have only done some and not all their buildings, as I don’t recall this on theirs. Course, I was something like 6 years old at the time…

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