A Brief history of
by Liza Carroll
pink granite of Stony Creek was first quarried in 1858
by Benjamin Green. Located directly opposite the
Willoughby Wallace library, the quarry extended down to
Hall’s Point Road. There is no record of how long it
operated. Another quarry was the Branford Granite Co.,
known today as big Brooklyn; relatively little is known
of this quarry.
railroad’s arrival in 1852 had a great impact on the
industry, improving transportation and the availability
of labor. The quarry industry in Stony creek reached its
height prior to the strike of 1900 when as many as 1,800
men were employed. Stony Creek during the boom times was
a veritable United Nations. The quarry workers were
Italian, Irish, Swedish, Finnish, English, Scottish and
Three of the
quarries are well documented; Stony Creek Red Granite
Company, Norcross Brothers and Guilford’s Beattie Quarry
which are all part of the same stretch of granite. The
base of the Statue of Liberty came from Beattie Quarry.
Beattie was well aware of the dangers involved in
quarrying as well as the possibility of silicosis and
made the workers stay outside even in winter. Records of
the time indicate that accidents at all the quarries
Granite Co., founded in 1876, and eventually taken over
and incorporated by a group of New Yorkers, was renamed
the Stony Creek Red Granite Co. It was located a bit
north north-west of the present Castelluci Quarry and
the granite was of exceptional quality. Granite for the
post office at Grand Central Station was the last big
contract of the company. The Stony Creek Red Granite Co.
also furnished the stone for Grants Tomb and shared with
Norcross Bros. the South Station in Boston. The
company’s stone won second place at the 1898 Chicago
Bros., from Worcester, Mass., bought property in Stony
Creek in 1887 and became the foremost quarry in the area
and the only one to operate ever since. For a time it
was operated by Dodd Granite Co. and currently as
Castelluci & Sons. Norcross Bros. built what is now
Quarry Road and then built a spur from the quarry to the
railroad track so that stone could be shipped by rail as
well as by schooner.
It is not
easy to envision the difficult conditions of quarrying
in the 19th century. The surface loose soil
and underbrush had to be cleaned and carted off in
wheelbarrows. A suitable seam had to be found and holes
drilled by hand. The holes were filled with black
powder, sometimes as many as sixteen kegs for one hole.
The black powder would open a seam with relatively
little damage whereas dynamite would shatter the stone
into useless fragments. Some blocks weighed 20 tons but
could be lifted by the derricks. Norcross at one time
had the largest wooden derrick in the world measuring
127 feet high. The huge blocks were hauled to cutting
sheds where they were cut and polished as contracted.
Many famous buildings were made of Stony Creek granite
but the quarries also sold stone for monuments, paving
block and rip-rap for breakwaters.
Company’s most unusual contract was for the West Point
Monument which was dedicated May 31, 1897. Norcross was
selected to provide the stone because its chief
characteristic was the ability to produce large stones
from ledges of great length without seams. In this case
a single blast produced a block 20 feet square and 50
feet long without a crack. The creation of what was
ultimately to be the tallest monolith in the world took
two years to complete. Unfortunately, the company
records of this tremendous job have not survived.
the West Point Monument to its final destination was an
equally impressive job. It was transported by rail on
two flat cars. Because it weighed 75,000 pounds, the top
speed of the train was 10 mph to avoid overheating.
During the train trip the two flat cars unhitched and
the stone rolled to the ground but was not damaged. The
monument was brought across the Hudson River by boat
then up the hill to West Point by train.
Quarrymen’s Union was chartered in 1891 and some of the
contracts signed by Stony Creek men indicate there was a
significant pecking order in the pay scales among the
hundreds of workers. They all had copies of the by-laws
which were issued in English and Italian. The pay scale
in one contract ranged from 21 cents to 35 cents an
hour. The men went on strike March 1, 1900 when the
company wouldn’t agree to a pay increase.
was a serious blow to the industry. However, World War I
was an even more serious blow because suddenly both
black powder and manpower became scarce. Granite was now
not economically feasible as a construction material.
The Dodd Granite Co. bought Norcross quarry in 1923 and
its last big job was for the Department of Commerce
Building in Washington D.C. in 1928.
had an enormous impact on Stony Creek, probably
infinitely more than the summer people who began
flocking to the area about the same time. The quarry
workers were here to stay. They needed housing and
schools as well as other necessities. There were several
grocery stores and two dry goods stores on School
Street, a blacksmith shop, movie theater, shoe store,
two barber shops, a druggist and nine saloons. No one
needed to leave the village for anything.
Castelluci & Sins the drills are hydraulic, the
explosives greatly improved, and the commissions for the
stone are larger and still very prestigious. Among the
more notable have been the AT&T Building in New York
City and the Echlin Headquarters in Branford.
It is possible today to cut as much stone in
a month as the old timers cut in three years. Least you
wonder how much longer they can continue to cut granite
in Stony Creek, rest assured, there is enough to last at
least another 200 years.