Alabaster Historic District

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Alabaster Historic District
Alabaster Gypsum Quarry Michigan 1904-2.jpg
Quarry, c. 1904
Alabaster Historic District is located in Michigan
Alabaster Historic District
Location Bounded by Lake Huron, Gypsum, Keystone, and Rempert Rds., Alabaster, Michigan
Coordinates 44°11′12″N 83°34′4″W / 44.18667°N 83.56778°W / 44.18667; -83.56778Coordinates: 44°11′12″N 83°34′4″W / 44.18667°N 83.56778°W / 44.18667; -83.56778
Area 400 acres (160 ha)
Built 1861 (1861)
Built by United States Gypsum Co.
Governing body Private
NRHP Reference # 77000715[1]
Added to NRHP December 16, 1977

The Alabaster Historic District is a mining complex bounded by on the east by Lake Huron, on the north by Gypsum Road, on the south by Keystone Road, and on the west by Rempert Road, south of Tawas City, Michigan. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1977.[1]


The Alabaster Historic District, located on the shore of Lake Huron, contains an enormous open pit gypsum mine, with the associated processing buildings, shops, and offices.[2] The district also contains the company town, with houses and outbuildings; most of the housing is built in a similar way, as 1-1/2-story frame houses with gable roofs.[2] THe district also contains a rail line and the remains of an elevated marine tramway running 1-1/2 miles into Saginaw Bay. The district contains 36 buildings over 400 acres.[1]


This location was named "Alabaster" after a variety of gypsum discovered offshore in 1837 by Douglass Houghton.[3] Soon, prospectors gegan searching for further sources of gypsum in the area, and stumbled upon the deposits at this site.[4] The deposits came to the attention of Geoarge B. Smith, whose father, B.F. Smith, owned a gypsum mill in Detroit.[4] Smith bought the land, and opened the mine in 1862[2] George Smith soon died, and ownership changed hands, with B.F. Smith purchasing a major share. In 1891, the company was called Western Plaster Works.[4] A fire in 1891 completely destroyed the mining structures, but operations were soon rebuilt, and the Alabaster Mine supplied material for the main buildings, known as the "white city," at the World's Columbian Exposition in 1893.

In 1898, the company name was changed to the Alabaster Company.[4] In 1902, the mine was incorporated into the U.S. Gypsum Corporation.[3] Housing for workers was constructed primarily in the period around 1910. The most visibile and impressive structure in the district, the elevated marine tramway, was constructed in 1929.[2] The tramway was demolished in the 1990s.[5]

The mine is no longer used.[2]


  1. ^ a b c "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. 2010-07-09. 
  2. ^ a b c d e "Alabaster Historic District". Michigan State Housing Development Authority: Historic Sites Online. Retrieved October 13, 2013. 
  3. ^ a b "Alabaster". Retrieved October 10, 2013. 
  4. ^ a b c d George Perry Grimsley (1904), The Gypsum of Michigan and the Plaster Industry, R. Smith printing Company, pp. 50–75 
  5. ^ Amy L. Payne (February 26, 2009). "Planners propose retrofitting old gypsum tramway for wind turbines on Lake Huron". Booth Mid-Michigan.