Monument Quarry Receives Monumental Treatment in New History
Hall, Elton W., The Chronicle of the Early American Industries Association, Inc.
Flesh and Stone, Stony Creek and the Age of Granite, edited by Deborah Deford (Stony Creek, Connecticut: Stony Creek Granite Quarry Workers Celebration, 2000). Hardcover, 202 pages, $50.00.
The great age of granite in the United States took place between the Civil War and World War I. To appreciate the importance of the industry and the contribution it made to the landscape of America, all you have to do is look at public buildings, libraries, railroad stations, cemeteries, monuments, and memorials built during that period. Three essential factors coincided to produce some of the most impressive buildings ever constructed in this country. First, the growing industrial revolution had begun to produce private fortunes and public wealth. Second, that same advancing technology brought the means to bite into that most durable part of the Earth's crust, granite, and fashion it into building materials, both structural and ornamental. Finally, the public developed a taste for monuments and buildings on a grand scale, and by good fortune, that taste was guided by architects like McKim, Meade, & White, who could produce buildings like Pennsylvania Station in New York City and The Boston Public Library, two of America's greatest granite buildings.
Granite of various colors and textures is found in many places across the country. About ten miles east of New Haven, Connecticut, is the village of Stony Creek in the town of Branford. Beneath that town lies a massive formation of granite of a pleasing color that became known as Stony Creek pink and enjoyed great popularity for all uses of granite. For almost 150 years granite has been taken from fifteen commercial quarries in or near Stony Creek for uses ranging from curbstones and paving blocks in New York City, to the Old Harbor Breakwater in Block Island, Rhode Island, to the base of the Statue of Liberty, South Station in Boston, the Newbury Library in Chicago, abutments for the George Washington Bridge, and the Battle Monument at West Point. One of the largest piles of Stony Creek pink ever constructed was the A. T. & T. building in New York, designed by Philip Johnson in 1979 as the headquarters of the national telephone monopoly. That building stimulated a renewed interest in the stone.
As the turn of the millennium approached, a number of "Creekers" sought a way to honor their village. The legacy of the quarries with all its ramifications became the obvious theme and was taken up as "The Stony Creek Quarry Workers Celebration." This book is one of the fruits of that enterprise. It is a collaboration among nine authors who brought different areas of expertise and interest to the project and produced far more than a simple history of getting stone out of the ground.
The history begins with a geological account of the area and mineralogical description of the stone. There follows a general account of the development of the market for granite, then a history of the fifteen quarries in Stony Creek and adjacent towns, giving their years of operation, the people involved, some of their customers, and how they dealt with the three basic tasks confronting the quarryman: getting the stone free of the ledge, cutting it to the desired shape, and delivering it to the customer. …