This Place in History: Hardwick Granite Industry

Vermont Historical Society

HARDWICK, Vt.

At ‘This Place in History‘, we’re in Hardwick with Executive Director of the Vermont Historical Society Steve Perkins.

“We’re talking a bit about granite here in Hardwick. We have this beautiful building behind us. It’s the Memorial Building in Hardwick, built in 1911 for $20,000, a princely sum in 1911. That’s about half a million today. But, you know what? You can’t build a building like that anymore. Look at those columns. That’s a solid piece of granite. It’s not stacked at all. We’re going to go talk to Elizabeth Dow and Bethany Dunbar over near one of the last remaining granite sheds to learn all about this,” began Perkins.

‘The first granite shed was put in right after the Civil War, just before the railroad. You can’t really do granite without a railroad and it grew until about 1900. And in about 1903, the Woodbury Granite Company got the contract for the Pennsylvania state capitol for 400,000 cubic feet of granite in two years. Nobody in the industry thought it was doable and they did in 22 months, which made the company’s reputation. It was all up from there for about 20 years. In 1911, the Woodbury Granite Company signed 22 contracts for post offices. They built over 300 banks, six state capitols, etc,” explained Elizabeth Dow of the Hardwick Historical Society.

“Now, the granite industry impacted this town in so many ways. Can you tell us a little bit about what the industry meant to this town?” asked Perkins.

“In terms of how huge it was for Hardwick, the annual income and expenses for the granite industry per year here – I Googled it to see what it would be today – and it’s about $25 million. So, imagine a $25 million industry here in Hardwick,” answered Bethany Dunbar of the Center for an Agricultural Economy.

“In 1910, Hardwick had a foreign-born population per capita comparable to that of New York City. There was a huge immigrant population, which was also true of Barre,” added Dow.

“[This] was shed number four. My employer is the Center for an Agricultural Economy and our desire was to create a community center that would have an impact on the food system as well as the economic system, helping some of our low-income residents with community gardens. We have the farmers market here, as well. Our hope is that the granite shed at some point can be renovated and useful as a winterized space for all of these projects,” said Dunbar.

“What led to the decline of the granite industry here in Hardwick?” asked Perkins.

“Granite buildings went out of style. After World War I, land was expensive. It was art deco. Think about skyscrapers. Grecian or Roman temples just weren’t being built anymore. And the town really struggled economically for about 70 years. And now, thanks to food, it’s coming back,” answered Dow.

“If you think about what the granite industry is, it’s all about the working lands. Today our business increases are all around food, which is also the working lands. So, I find that a really wonderful thread that goes through Hardwick’s history,” concluded Dunbar.

At ‘This Place in History’!

For more from our ‘This Place in History’ series, click here.

To view a map of Vermont’s roadside historic markers, click here.

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