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Home » SCIENCE AND NATURE » NEW HAMPSHIRE » Stone Quarries of New England
An alpine waterfall runs over granite in New England
Stone Quarries of New England

By Michael F. Bisceglia, Jr. | December 02, 2010

Many home-grown New England guys know where some abandoned quarries are. Most spent some part of our youthful summers diving into these terrific granite swimming pools.

A Granite Lake

They were wonderful.   The water was always refreshing and clean, and the rocks around them always offered the perfect place to bask.   I haven’t been part of the swimming hole scene for over four decades; I just hope the current batch of kids have as much fun as I did so many moons ago.

Spend any time in New England, and you’ll spy a stonewall.   Those walls are made of granite, and the granite came from right below your feet.   Where there are small stones, you might expect to find larger ones... and still larger ones, and some larger than that!

Even though New Hampshire is called the Granite State, it didn’t corner the market on all the granite in the region.   And where there are large formations of granite, you’re quite likely to find a quarry.

Folks have been prying rocks from the ground since before New England was called New England.   In 1749, the quarry business was certainly crude by today’s standards.   Then, folks dropped large iron balls on heated stones hoping that they would crack and could be forced away and tooled down.   As time passed, the industry grew and became more technologically advanced.   The quarry industry was in the perfect place at the perfect time to benefit the growth of New England and the country.   With readily available water transport, slabs of granite could be shipped to help create virtually any structure designed to last.   Railroad bridges, post offices, statues, cobblestones for roads, even the great coastal walls came from regional stones.   Seemingly, there was a never-ending supply, as well as a never-ending need for it.

A Stone Trail

The industry grew through the Civil War era and beyond.   The country was expanding, and the need for granite seemed assured.   But, like all good things, the end was in sight.   In the late 1890’s the use of brick began to take over.   Nearly as sturdy, it could easily made and shipped.

There have been some peaks and valleys in the granite industry and a lot of constants.   Stone for decorative purposes (including the current trend for countertops), tombstones, and some construction is vital to the granite industry, but the great need for granite as the giant industry of the northeast is long over.

Many of the quarries of yesteryear are simply the swimming holes of today with one slight addendum.   Rock climbing has become a passion for outdoor enthusiasts, and what better place to go climb a rock than in some abandoned quarry.   There are rock climbing clubs throughout the region.   On any given weekend, you can find their members scurrying up and down the walls of the places where some of the most beautiful stone in the country was freed.

If you can’t find a rock climbing club member to help you find the closest quarry, ask most any kid in any town.   He’ll tell you.

Bring a towel or a pick axe... your choice.   New England rocks!

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