Tenino sandstone built Washington, and should be the state rock says Rep. Peter Abbarno

Rep. Peter Abbarno has filed legislation that would make Tenino sandstone the state rock.

States with significant mineral deposits often create a state mineral, rock, stone or gemstone to promote interest in their natural resources, history, and tourism. Currently, 29 states have designated a state rock. Washington has designated petrified wood as the state gemstone, but the state rock designation remains unfilled.

“There are so many buildings and monuments in the state of Washington that were built and designed with Tenino sandstone,” said Rep. Abbarno, who represents parts of south Thurston County, including the city of Tenino. “You can’t visit the Capitol without seeing Tenino sandstone or the craftsmanship of the Tenino Stone Carvers Guild. It is fitting to designate Tenino sandstone as our ‘state stone.’”

The sedimentary rock, part of the McIntosh Formation, was formed more than 40 million years ago from layers of oceanic sand. In the late 1800s, the stone was used in construction across the West Coast. It increased in popularity after a building made from the material was one of the few to survive the San Francisco earthquake, according to the Washington State Department of Natural Resources.

In 1914, the Hercules Company used Tenino sandstone to carve the stone representing the state at the Washington Monument in the nation’s capital.

The stone was used to construct buildings across Washington, including portions of the state Capitol. When the building was damaged during the 2001 Nisqually earthquake, members of the Tenino Stone Carvers Guild were among those tasked with its repair.

House Bill 1977, which revives the work of former State Sen. Dan Swecker, is a collaboration with leaders in Thurston County, the city of Tenino, and members of the Tenino Stone Carvers Guild.

Abbarno secured $160,000 in funds during the 2023 legislative session for the guild to construct a workshop and classroom near the Tenino quarry to help train the area’s future stone carvers.

In September, it was also unveiled that the city, county, and stone carvers are working on a large-scale economic development, tourism, and art project that will highlight Tenino sandstone.

“Tenino sandstone is part of the history and tradition of Washington state,” said Abbarno. “This legislation would help bring that history to life, to the classroom, and provide the recognition that the stone and Tenino community played in building our state.”

The 2024 legislative session is scheduled to convene on Jan. 8.   


Washington State House Republican Communications