The Rock of Ages Quarry is a landscape of contrasts. Deep within its hard granite cavity, a pool of turquoise water rests, lapping against its pale gray walls. Not far away, a state-of-the-art plant produces headstones and mausoleums in the same place where they have been mined since the 1800s.
Located in the aptly named town of Graniteville, Vermont, the Rock of Ages Quarry has long been a site of fascination. As the world’s largest series of granite mines, it has drawn visitors for decades. At the end of spring, the area will open for touring once again.
The History Of The Rock Of Ages Quarry
A fresh blanket of snow across the Rock of Ages Quarry, Graniteville, Vermont, USA
The history of the quarry is a tale of American industry. In 1885, George B. Milne opened a granite manufacturing company with two other founders. Targeting a band of fine gray stone, the region soon became known for producing quality rock. Two decades later, Milne partnered with James Boutwell and Harvey Varnum to create the Boutwell, Milne & Varnum Company. However, this would later be changed to “Rock of Ages” in conjunction with a nationwide marketing campaign.
- Location: 558 Graniteville Road, Graniteville, Vermont 05654
The public spotlight also led to a stream of tourists that required new viewing decks. Soon, Rock of Ages expanded to include its own manufacturing plant, specializing in crafting grave markers and mausoleums. As technological upgrades revolutionized rail transportation in the U.S., the quarry began to export to faraway places. It quickly became the top producer of granite headstones in North America – a title it still holds today.
How Deep Is The Rock Of Ages Quarry?
Headstones in Montpelier, Vermont, USA
The Rock of Ages Quarry is the largest deep-hole dimension granite quarry in the world and covers approximately 50 acres. Its E.L. Smith Quarry is especially impressive, and its lowest point reaches a depth of 600 feet.
Unfortunately, these expansions have had their costs. Similar to America’s other historic quarries, including the eerie Split Rock Quarry in New York, which visitors can hike, it has seen its share of tragedies. Over the course of its run, an estimated 6,000 people have died due to accidents and dust inhalation at Rock of Ages.
However, this hasn’t stopped the mine from advancing with newer techniques aimed at making work safer and more precise. In fact, the massive cavities will likely only grow as the company continues to mine stone from the area. It is estimated that the region’s granite vein may be 4 miles long, 2 miles wide, and 10 miles thick, according to the site’s official blog. So, the site will definitely see further developments in the future.
Why Is The Water At The Rock Of Ages Quarry Turquoise?
Visitors to the quarry are often surprised by the bright hue of the water that lines its bottom. The pool is a striking shade of blue-green. Opposed to the somber gray of the granite that cradles it, the water appears all the more vibrant.
The reason for this otherworldly color is a combination of minerals, clear groundwater, and sunlight. As the rock is drilled into, the area’s groundwater naturally seeps out. Additionally, water is used during drilling to prevent fine dust particles from floating into the air and harming workers. As the particles settle in the water, they add to its shine, and the sun makes the upwell almost seem to glow.
How To See The Rock Of Ages Quarry
Exterior at the Vermont Visitor Center, en route to Burlington, Vermont, USA
Tours of the quarry and the plant can be taken from the Rock of Ages Visitors Center. The starting location displays some historical documents and even features a gift shop and outdoor granite bowling alley. Additionally, visitors are allowed to take a small bit of the quarry home with them for free. A pile of grout (scrap bits of stone) is included in the center so that guests can take a piece for themselves.
Unfortunately, tours are seasonal and typically only take place between the end of spring and the beginning of spring. Nevertheless, a tour of the quarry is an excellent addition to any circuit of quirky roadside attractions in Vermont.
Presentations and an educational video are first used to inform guests about Vermont’s mining history. Then, visitors pile into their cars to follow caravan-style behind a bus before stopping at an overlook to admire the site and watch the workers far below as they slice up the rock. Meanwhile, a guide explains the processes and daily operations of the site.
- Estimated Cost: $7.00 per adult, $6.50 per senior (62+ years old), $4.00 per child (6-13), free for children under the age of 6
- Estimated Duration: 40 minutes
Self-guided tours are available of the Rock of Ages plant, where visitors can watch as artisans grind down the stone to be used for memorials and other pieces of art. The 160,000-square-foot factory offers insight into the significance of the quarry as a cultural and creative monument. It solidifies Vermont’s enduring legacy as a granite powerhouse.