This Place in History: Millstone Hill Part 1

Vermont Historical Society

BARRE, Vt.

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

“We are in the historic heart of granite quarrying, really for the world. Scott McLaughlin, the Executive Director of the Vermont Granite Museum is going to meet us here and we’re going to go on a beautiful fall walk through the woods looking at granite quarries,” explained Perkins.

“Barre got [the title of Granite Capital of the World] actually in 1902 when it had finally surpassed all other states in the United States in creating dimensional block stone, which is sold for memorials. And from 1902 through the 1950s this is where most of the granite was used in North America. It came right out of the ground that we’re standing on today,” began McLaughlin.

“This is called Millstone Hill. It’s actually a pluton of granite that dates to about 350 million years old. It has been exposed over the last 100,000 years by glaciation. And so this material being exposed made it accessible to those early settlers of the region,” added McLaughlin.

“[Granite] is a desirable stone for especially sculpture work because it has really fine crystal structure,. It’s also aligned and that alignment is important to be able to predict how it’s going to split. And what you’re going to get out of it when you start working it”

“This is called a grout pile. It’s the waste material from just a couple of quarries on the opposite side. And in order to be able to achieve that great height, they built actually a railroad in the 19th century or early 20th that scales up that hill. It keeps getting extended as the hill gets larger and larger, and each of the cars of granite waste material that’s hauled up there is then dumped either sideways or on the end. And it just keeps growing and growing. As you can see it now, it threatens the houses that are below, because of its grand size,” said McLaughlin.

“[The waste granite] like good quality, but in many cases, the granite has things such as soluble iron in it. No one wants to see rust stains on a monument. There’s also what are called white knots. If you have one of these white streaks in it, of say quartz, a nice vein of it, it may look good as a countertop, but it certainly doesn’t look good as a memorial or a sculpture in the 19th century. 90% of what was taken out of the ground was deemed not worthy of being turned into a finished monument or sculpture. So it ended up here,” said McLaughlin.

“Is there a use for it today” asked Perkins?

“The granite companies, their waste product generally goes to Northeast Materials Group. which is up here on the hill. They crush it and they turn it into an aggregate. That aggregate material might be found on your driveway or as you’re driving down any highway look off to the side, it might be granite all on the side of it. So it serves a really good base for roads. All of our railroads in the state of Vermont, they all have ballast material made out of granite underneath those rails and ties.”

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 site markers, click here.

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