Saturday, June 2, 2012

Wichita Carthalite

Karen and I have been examining some of the architecture in Wichita that contains colored cast concrete elements called "Carthalite".

Carthalite was the trade name used by the Cement Stone & Supply Company to designate this unique cast stone. About 11 buildings still stand with these elements. All these structures were built between 1927 and 1940.

Colored elements were only used for surface structures, not any 3 dimensional elements. The color was obtained by adding mineral pigments to the concrete, and in a few instances colored crushed glass was also added to the concrete aggregate. The colored elements are usually surrounded by white or gray concrete.

There are even rumors that crushed Mentholatum jars were used in the mural on the old Wichita Municipal Airport building. The color was not just a surface treatment, but penetrated fully throughout the entire depth of the casting.

Carthalite seems to be unique to Wichita and possibly the entire US. Researchers are still looking to see if other examples exist.

Minisa Bridge

One of the most accessible examples of Carthalite is on the Minisa bridge over the Little Arkansas River on 13th St north near North High School. Here, Carthalite is used in the Buffalo and Native American images.

Dockum Drug Store

Also, there are many Carthalite elements on the 2 visible sides of the Dockum Drug store at Douglas Ave and Hillside St. Many pastel colored elements are placed over much of the walls.

For more information about Wichita Carthalite see the following:

Article about Wichita Carthalite in American Bungalow magazine written by Barbara Hammond of the City of Wichita Historic Preservation Office:

Kansas Sampler Foundation Eight Wonders of Kansas page for Wichita Carthalite:

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