By Pete Steiner
Special to The Free Press
When Paul Vetter retired in 1954, he wanted to make sure his sons had work. Both Paul and his father before him had done some quarrying of stone near Kasota, as far back as the late 1800’s. It was beautiful stone that still looks pristine today on the exteriors of buildings like the U.S. Post Office and First Presbyterian Church in downtown Mankato.
But quarrying operations on the Kasota land had gone dormant in the 1930’s. Paul had built a 100-square-foot hunting cabin off County Highway 5 between Mankato and Kasota, and knowing there was good stone in the area, he bought 700 acres of land. Then with his life savings, he acquired some used machinery to set up a quarrying operation. As it turned out, Paul Vetter’s retirement vision was 20-20.
60 years after Paul’s son, Howard Vetter, graduated from college and took the reins of the company, Vetter Stone, situated between tiny Kasota and Mankato, is world-renowned for the color, quality and strength of its product. The little stone hunting cabin became their original office building. Their very first client was in Chicago, a city where they sent a lot of stone in the early days. Today, one can find Vetter stone adorning major buildings from Mankato to Minneapolis to Washington, DC, to Tokyo to Istanbul.
This story actually begins 400-million years ago, in a time long before the dinosaurs, when an inland sea covered much of the area we now live in. Howard says the dolomitic limestone was formed as impurities in the water filtered to the bottom, with the stone created through eons of sedimentation. He says the stone in our area is of unusual quality: “A common misconception is that it’s widely available, but usually [in other places] it’s broken up.” In 1998, Vetter acquired a large quarry in Alabama. Now, says Howard, “We have two of the prime areas where nice color and strength are available in large slabs or panels.”