2011 marked the 15th anniversary of the Deer Isle Granite Museum. It was founded in 1996 by Denie and Frank Weil, long-time summer residents of Stonington, ME with a keen interest in capturing and preserving the history of Deer Isle’s quarrying industry.
This delightful paperback history of the Deer Isle granite industry is currently available only at the museum.
Excerpt from the Foreword to Stone Slabs and Iron Men by Frank A. Weil
Over forty years ago I came on a sailboat as a summer visitor to Stonington and its islands. Struck by the stark silhouette of Crotch Island’s derricks, standing as silent witness to a former boom time, I couldn’t wait to explore the quarry.
Thus began a fascination with Crotch Island and its decaying infrastructure. Several times a summer my wife, Denie, and I would take our children and friends – and later our grandchildren – to explore the quarry on Crotch Island. Over the years of our visits many of the buildings housing power plants, pulley systems and drafting offices burned or just fell down; the railroad system disappeared, with its tracks and cars taken away to be sold as scrap metal.
The steam-generating boiler, installed in the 1930s on top of the south quarry face, was pushed over the hillside, and most of the powerful derricks, secured by webs of cables, fell over – leaving only one derrick still standing, with an osprey nest at its top.
Soon this lone derrick, too, might disappear. Thus the urgency to create the Deer Isle Granite Museum – to capture quarrying history before it was lost forever…
Many of America’s greatest monuments are built of the beautiful granite from Crotch Island, off Stonington. And according to those who worked in the quarries, it was a noble industry which finally died in 1966. But it was also an industry where men were blown up by black powder or crushed when huge blocks of stone slipped.
From Stone Slabs and Quarry Men, page 8:
Job. L. Goss began the quarrying in 1869. What Goss immediately recognized was that the Crotch Island granite was accessible. It sloped sharply to the sea and the harbor was deep – ideal for loading and shipping. Then he saw the quality of the stone itself. It was strong, not too hard or porous, and it was beautiful.
Much of the beauty of granite comes from its color and texture… Crotch Island granite was speckled with lavender pink and milky white feldspar, and when polished, became rich, dark and distinct…
Stonington was changed by the Crotch Island quarries. It had been a town of small industry with its seining weirs, abundant clams and lobster. In 1900, Italian stonecutters, Scotch paving cutters, Swedes, Norwegians and Yankees came looking for work. Boarding houses were opened and the quarrymen, sometimes living three to a room, piled into them… from The Glorious Days of Granite by Marion Knox, TIME Magazine.