History of Slate Roofing

Here is a brief history of slate roofs, and how they have progressed through time. In Europe the first recorded slate roof was installed in 1287 in North Wales, England. Slate was used on castles and churches because of its durability against fire and weather. Since it was extremely expensive and time consuming to install, only the wealthy could take advantage of it. It wasn’t until the 1800’s in Spain that the quarrying process became advanced enough for slate to be available for roofing everyday homes. To this day almost 90% of all European roofing slate is quarried in Spain. In the U.S. slate roofs were first introduced in the 1600’s around the Boston and Philadelphia regions and it wasn’t until the first U.S. quarry opened in 1785 in Pennsylvania that slate became more available for local use.

Slate wasn’t mass quarried in the U.S. until the latter half of the 19th century. Starting in Pennsylvania and spreading through the north east region of the country. Vermont became the state most known for slate production and still is today. Once slate was produced locally, two elements helped expand the market to where it is today; the immigration of skilled slater’s from Europe and the architectural development and use of slate. After the civil war, slate production peaked, and quarries popped up all over across the eastern United States. Vermont is renowned for producing some of the highest quality slate in the world, for roofing and many other applications. While other parts of the world produce an abundance of S3 and S2 grade stone, Vermont steadily produces primarily S1 (highest) quality stone. Slate production was at its highest in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. During this period there were over 200 quarries on the eastern coast. However, once asphalt shingles were introduced the consumption of slate for roofs dwindled and has since to fully recover. The recent growth in popularity of historical restoration and preservation along with new techniques that allow for a natural slate roof while staying lightweight has influenced the market in the right direction. With a steady rise in slate roof installations across the country, the market is showing a new sense of hope.