Sunday, August 12, 2012

Rock of Ages quarry - Vermont

In the north central part of Vermont, about a dozen miles or so to the east, is a town called Barre (rhymes with 'marry'), population: around 9,000. Barre is self-proclaimed as the "Granite Center of the World" because of the huge granite quarry located in the hills above the city.

We visited the Rock of Ages quarry and nearby Hope Cemetery to see the amazing granite monuments and tombstones.

The granite field has been measured at 2 miles by 4 miles in area and 10 miles deep. The granite field is so extensive that they estimate they'll have enough granite for about 4,500 years!
This that you're looking at is about 600 feet deep. The water is left over from Hurricane Irene that came through August 2011.

Naturally, their entrance sign is made from a block of granite.

We watched from a fenced platform which provided a bird’s-eye view of the quarry. The workers (quarries) in the depths below cut Barre granite into mammoth blocks then lift them to the surface by derricks (cranes) capable of lifting up to 250 tons!

The supporting cables extend in all directions to spread out the loads when raising the blocks.

The holes are drilled 2 1/2 inches apart vertically, then the same goes for horizontal underneath. Then it's blasted to separate the block from the rest of the granite wall.

This photo shows the drilling machine in operation as it drills the vertical holes. This also helps to show how large the blocks are compared to the worker.

I wonder what OSHA would think of checking your cell phone while working 600 feet above the ground?

Another great perspective photo to show how huge the granite blocks are.

Inside half of the factory where all the carving/cutting/shipping is done.

How many hearts can you see in this monument?

Some cut tombstones ready for engraving.

The other half of the factory. Notice the wood crates being made to ship the finished products.

Granite tabletops are a part of the business. They last and do not discolor like marble (so said the tour guide).

First the design needs to be applied to the stone. Nowadays the engraving is mostly done by machine.

Cute story....the Rock of Ages people had the idea to diversity into making granite bowling lanes. This is the first one they made. Local officials showed up for the revealing along with a major official from the bowling industry. With a lot of hoopla, the bowler stepped up and rolled the first bowling ball. Everyone cheered. The bowling official turned around and said to the quarry people, "Don't ever make any more of these". "Why not?", asked the manufacturers. "Because the granite surface has no grip! Therefore the bowlers cannot spin the ball", came the reply. Thus ended the bowling lane business.

They had some plastic pins and a plastic ball to try. I set up the pins and threw a gutter ball right off so I got a little closer. Same result.

Even closer.....finally, a strike!

The tour director said that 95% of their business is tombstones and monuments. Granite for these purposes will always be in demand, especially as the baby-boom generation comes along.

Next stop was the Hope Cemetery in Barre which had many many fabulous granite tombstones.

A small section of the cemetery is shown here. All granite. No marble.

Look at this one particular famous tombstone. Famous because of the intricate detail as shown in these photos.

This was all carved by hand.

Next....examples of some of the more unique tombstones and monuments we found in the cemetery. Everywhere we turned was another wonderful engraving masterpiece. Most of the engraving in the past was done by Italian craftsman who came from Italy and the Boston area to work in the granite and carving industry. A great number of tombstones were Italian names. They ended up engraving their own tombstones as well.

So many of the monuments had great feeling that you could not help but get overwhelmed and choked up looking at them.

A wonderful stop in our journey across the states. Please stop and visit this place if you're ever in the area.

Kim and Steve