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These New Photos Show Rooftop Is Inaccessible But Not Destroyed

Rumors have floated around social media recently that Rooftop Quarry, the iconic swimming hole in southern Monroe County, has been “demolished.” Some say the quarry’s eponymous feature — a slab of rock jutting over the water — has been pushed into the water and sunk to the bottom. Others say the entire quarry is being filled in. Neither is true, although the owner of the property, Indiana Limestone Company, has taken extensive measures to make the quarry safer by making it less accessible.

Citing “public safety concerns,” Nathan Waterford, director of environmental health and safety for the company, showed Limestone Post the results of the efforts. Along the tops of the quarry walls, including the 65-foot cliff, dirt and trees have been bulldozed to the edge, eliminating launch points for many quarry jumpers. Massive boulders have been pushed onto the Rooftop slab itself.

Huge limestone blocks have been pushed on top of the iconic Rooftop slab to make it less accessible. | Photo by Lynae Sowinski

Huge limestone blocks have been pushed on top of the iconic Rooftop slab to make it less accessible. | Photo by Lynae Sowinski

The quarry, also known as Sanders Quarry, was featured in the 1979 movie Breaking Away as a swimming hole for the group townies known as “Cutters,” and the site has been a favorite landmark for generations. Jumping off the cliff walls into the water has even made it on several “bucket lists,” especially on blogs by Indiana University students. (One says “Visit Sanders Quarry” but advises to “Please appreciate the quarry from a distance, and don’t do dumb things (like cliff diving).” Another will “double dog dare you to jump in.”)

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But such adventures anywhere in Monroe County are illegal (all quarries in the county are privately owned, so visiting them without permission is trespassing) and often dangerous. In 2008, Walter Ayala, 18, died after jumping off of the Rooftop cliff. He was pulled unconscious from the water by rescue workers but never recovered. However, paralyzing injuries and even fatalities have not deterred people. The day after Ayala’s death, nearly 20 people received trespassing citations at the same spot.

Indiana Limestone Company owns the Empire chain of quarries in southern Monroe County where stone for New York City’s Empire State Building, Rockefeller Center, and many other notable structures across the country has been quarried.

Waterford says while many people would not even consider trespassing on someone’s property to use their swimming pool, “they somehow think that it’s okay to swim in a privately owned quarry.” But trespassing isn’t just a liability for the company or an inconvenience for company personnel, he says. The burden spreads to others, as well, and the problem has increased in the past year.

A favorite 65-foot launching point is now covered with rock, dirt, trees, and other debris — making it less accessible — in the hopes that it will deter trespassers. | Photo by Lynae Sowinski

A favorite 65-foot launching point is now covered with rock, dirt, trees, and other debris — making it less accessible — in the hopes that it will deter trespassers. | Photo by Lynae Sowinski

Nearby residents often complain about people parking in their neighborhood while they swim at the quarry; they’re often loud and destructive — traipsing through and dumping trash on their lawns. Sheriff deputies have to answer calls for trespassing, and first responders have to rush to the scene when an accident happens.

Waterford says many plans have been considered to prevent injury and death at the quarries, but none are feasible or effective. The site is so immense that building a secure fence around the property would run into the millions of dollars. Fences are not that effective of a deterrence anyway. The company has considered demolishing the slab of stone that attracts people, but it wouldn’t stop people from jumping off ledges and swimming in the quarry.

So Waterford says the solution for now is to make the site as inaccessible as possible, hoping that it will deter trespassers. Besides, he said, the company may want to start quarrying from Rooftop again.

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Limestone Post
This story was compiled by Limestone Post staff.

Limestone Post is an online culture and lifestyle publication for Bloomington, Indiana, and beyond. Covering a broad range of topics — music, sports, hiking, food, theater, travel, and family, among others — Limestone Post features the many fascinating people, places, and events that make Bloomington unique and a true gem of a town.
Lynae Sowinski
Editorial Director at Limestone Post
Lynae joined Limestone Post in the summer of 2015. She works with all contributors and manages the editorial content for the site.

A Bloomington native, Lynae graduated with honors from Indiana University’s School of Journalism in 2012 with a minor in sociology. She started her editing career at Bloom Magazine as a high school intern and, over the course of almost eight years, advanced to the position of associate editor. Among other duties, she managed the website, magbloom.com, which won Best Journalism Website in 2012 from the Indiana chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists.
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Comments
  • Brian Kieffer
  • TexasAccountant

    Sad. I loved swimming in this quarry as a teenager.

  • ofenmann

    I’m glad to be a child of the 60s who swam and dived here and other local quaries many times. They didn’t do much to stop you back then and the place was packed on the weekend.

  • James Audley

    I remember stopping here after a 50 mile bike ride and losing my breath when I hit that cold water off of slant rock (the one in Breaking Away). I get that it isn’t safe and it is private property, but it’s sad to see this change.

  • Karen

    It’s sad to see what they have done. They are actually destroy something that is beautiful. This is a landmark and its historical. Instead of destroying it, They should have found a way to preserve it. I understand it is dangerous and they want to deter people but it will never be able to be returned to its natural beauty. What a shame. People destroy what they can’t control, understand or appreciate it