Between circa 1781 and 1901, the Seneca Quarry produced distinctive red sandstone used extensively in the Washington, DC area, notably in the construction of the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal and the original Smithsonian Institution building ("The Castle"). Seneca red sandstone (also called red stone) was valued for the ease with which it could be cut as well as for its durability and bright color. Initially lilac grey when quarried, the stone turned red as the iron in the stone oxidized.
Located on the edge of the Seneca Quarry and built from red sandstone, the Stone Cutting & Dressing Building was where stone was shaped and polished. The structure’s southeast exterior wall is visible in the background of photograph. All that remains of the machinery is the water channel in the foreground, the former location of the water-wheel/turbine that powered the cutting and dressing machines within the building. As seen on the map below, water purchased from the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal Company ran from the Turning Basin though a water wheel/turbine system to Seneca Creek. The building and quarry were abandoned in 1901 when veins of good stone ran out.