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Interpreting the Evidence

Rock City Park, Near Olean, c. 1900

  • Documents in this Activity:
  • Historical Eras:

    Turn of the Century and WWI (1890 - 1930)

  • Thinking Skill:

    Historical Analysis & Interpretation

  • Grade Level:

    Lower Elementary
    Upper Elementary
    Middle School
    High School
    College University

  • Topics:


  • Primary Source Types:


  • Regions:

    Western New York
    New York State

  • Creator:

    NYS Archives Partnership Trust Education Team

  1. Load Rock City Park, Near Olean, c. 1900 in Main Image Viewer

Suggested Teaching Instructions

Document Description
A man standing at the top of large rocks at Rock City Park near Olean, New York, circa 1900.
Historical Context
In prehistoric times, Rock City Park was an ocean floor. Rivers brought quartz from the mountains to the ocean, where it sank to the bottom and mixed with sand and mud, forming concrete, a process that took millions of years. At the time the Appalachian Mountains were formed, this area was lifted up and eventually eroded into the rocks you see at the park today.  Thousands of visitors each year visit the park to see the huge boulders with deep crevices, or "streets," like the ones in the photograph. The rock has been dated to 320 million years old, and the quartz itself is half a billion years old.
Essential Question
How does geography influence culture and human settlement patterns?
Check for Understanding
Describe the scene in the photograph and explain the influence of geography on culture.
Historical Challenges
Research the Paleozoic Era, when North America and Africa collided. When was the Paleozoic Era? How does it relate to Rock City Park?
When was Rock City Park first opened to the public?
Interdisciplinary Connections
Math: How much is half a billion? Which is older, the quartz or the rock at Rock City Park? How much older? How old are the rocks in days? Months?
Science: What are some of the properties of quartz? What is quartz used for, and how is it mined?