Touring Vermont and
Canada with the MIA
July 1, 2007
The Marble Institute of America (MIA) recently hosted the first of two “Quarry Tours & More” seminars, which took place on May 16 and 17, 2007. Approximately 30 stone-industry members who were interested in learning more about quarrying in the North East participated in the tour, which pushed off in Barre, VT. During the two-day event, participants visited four quarries and three stone museums as well as a number of other points of interest to stone professionals.
Local event partners that worked with the MIA to make this tour possible included GEMS (The Granite Exhibit & Museum of Stanstead) of Stanstead, Quebec, Canada; Granite Importers of Barre, VT; Rock of Ages Quarry Division of Barre, VT; and Vermont Quarries Corp. of Rutland, VT. Additionally, strategic partners included Alpha Professional Tools® of Oakland, NJ; Aqua Mix Inc. of Corona, CA; GranQuartz of Tucker, GA; Marmo Machinery USA of Southfield, MI; OHM International, Inc. of Greensboro, NC; Park Industries of St. Cloud, MN; VIC International Corp. of Knoxville, TN; and Water Treatment Technologies of Hampton, NH.
A Rock of Ages welcomingDespite rainy conditions, tour participants were eager to head out bright and early on Wednesday, May 16, for a welcome breakfast at the Rock of Ages Visitors Center in Graniteville, VT. The visit - hosted by the company’s quarry division - was led by Bob Campo, Vice President of Sales and Marketing.
After enjoying a complimentary breakfast and browsing inside the visitors center, which includes an assortment of Rock of Ages memorabilia as well as photos and descriptions detailing the company’s history dating back to 1814, the group was shown a brief movie that summarized the development of Rock of Ages. Next, they were led on a guided tour through the company’s monument processing plant. They were able to see how the process starts with a rough granite block being cut on one of the company’s large diamond wire saws to finished details such as sandblasting names and images onto a monument and branding it with the “Rock of Ages Seal of Approval.”
Once the tour of the fabricating operation was done, Campo along with Todd Paton, who runs the company’s visitors center, accompanied the group on a visit to the Barre granite quarry, which was purchased by Rock of Ages in 1947. The impressive site - covering a surface area of 50 acres and reaching 600 feet deep - is one of 10 owned by the company throughout the U.S., Canada and Ukraine.
The official name of the site is the E.L. Smith Quarry, which was started by its namesake in 1880, explained Paton. “Most of the granite here is used for monuments, but we are also well known for civic stature,” he said. “We are pleased to have been a part of the World War II Memorial that opened in 2003.”
After visiting the E.L. Smith Quarry, the group moved on to Hope Cemetery in Barre, VT. And even with wet weather conditions, the site was a beautiful display of granite monuments and mausoleums.
Touring Granite ImportersThe tour then proceeded to the Vermont Granite Museum of Barre where Granite Importers - a large fabricator of three-dimensional work for commercial projects throughout the U.S. - hosted a lunch for the group. This provided those on the tour with an opportunity to socialize and discuss the morning’s events.
Next, participants were taken a short distance away to visit Granite Importer’s fabrication facility where they were greeted by the company’s owner, Jake Colgan, and his son, Justin Colgan, as well as Mary Tousignant, who accompanied the group throughout the two days of the tour. The company was launched about 35 years ago and has grown to include 50 employees.
The group was allowed to walk around the facility and observe the machinery in operation. According to Tousignant, there are usually between 20 to 30 jobs in progress at one time. “We are one of the only companies in the area that is doing architectural dimension stone,” she said.
At the time of the tour, Granite Importers was fabricating pieces of Cambrian Black granite for the Mandarin Hotel in Boston, MA. The work included curved pieces of the stone with a polished finish as well as rectangular pieces. Another large job that the company was working on was for the Lackawanna County Courthouse in Pennsylvania.
Crossing the borderBack on the road again, the tour then headed into Stanstead, Canada, which is the home to Rock of Ages/Canada. The company’s operation in this location includes two manufacturing facilities and two quarries.
While the pink granite quarry sits about four hours north of Montreal, the group had the opportunity to visit the company’s Stanstead Grey site. It was explained that the granite is a little softer than Barre granite because of its higher iron content, but it is still ideal for monuments and building material. Rock of Ages quarries approximately 180,000 cubic feet of Stanstead Grey granite annually.
The next stop on the tour was Picture This On Granite in Stanstead, where company owner Bonnie Goodsell and her husband, Jeff Goodsell of Park Industries, hosted a cocktail reception. Additionally, the group had the opportunity to view some of the company’s finished products and watch the Cam Tech Laser Master in progress.
Bonnie Goodsell started Picture This On Granite seven years ago. The company specializes in high-quality image reproductions on natural stone by using the latest technology and laser-etching techniques. Group members were given the chance to speak with company employees to learn more about the work done at the shop.
Everyone then headed over to the GranitExpo & Museum of Stanstead, which is a unique complex that combines a permanent showroom featuring many of the region’s most respected manufacturers and artists as well as a museum honoring the past of Stanstead’s manufacturing community. It is said that the concept reunites the past, the present and the future of the granite industry in Stanstead.
Tour members were given time to walk through the showroom - viewing a number of residential applications featuring stones from the region. They also had time to stroll through the museum portion to learn more about the history of the stone industry in Stanstead. Additionally, a buffet-style dinner was provided.
Several companies from the region sponsored the event at the GranitExpo & Museum of Stanstead. They included Derusha Supply, GranQuartz, GEMS, GranitSlab International, Park Industries, Picture This On Granite, Polycor, Rediker Transport, Rock of Ages/Canada and Water Treatment Technologies.
Visiting Vermont QuarriesThe second day of the MIA quarry tour started with a trip to the Danby marble quarry, which is owned and operated by Vermont Quarries Corp., in Rutland, VT. Luca Mannolini, General Manager, and Todd Robertson, Director of Sales, welcomed the group and gave them a tour of the facility.
The Imperial quarry - located within Dorset Mountain - has been in continuous operation since it was first opened in 1902. It is the largest underground marble quarry in the U.S., and very likely the largest of its type in the world, according to the company.
Among the better-known buildings in the U.S. for which white Danby marble was used include the U.S. Supreme Court Building, the Thomas Jefferson Memorial, the Senate Office Buildings, the James Madison Library and the Arlington National Cemetery Amphitheatre in Washington, DC. The Detroit Institute of Art and the Knowlton School of Architecture are just a couple of the newer projects in which Danby marble has been used.
At the time of the tour and Stone World’s visit, Vermont Quarries was working to develop a new entrance to the upper layer of the quarry, which is known as the Brook layer. According to Mannolini, the quarry produces approximately 180,000 cubic feet - which is processed into 2-cm-thick slabs that would equal close to 2 million square feet - per year.
“This will lead to a very good Imperial layer,” said Robertson. “Really, the future of Danby marble is up here. It will bring in more sales.”
In addition to a tour of the quarry, the group also was given an opportunity to look at the company’s unique fabricating operation, which is also inside the mountain. “We invested $2 million in equipment to make slabs and penetrate the U.S. market,” said Robertson, adding that 90 to 95% of Vermont Quarries’ slab business is utilized for kitchen countertops. The company fabricates approximately 30,000 to 35,000 square feet of marble per month. If necessary, the company can produce up to 4,000 square feet per day without adding any additional equipment.
Once group members finished looking at the quarrying and fabricating operations, Vermont Quarries hosted them to a quaint lunch at a local restaurant. Mannolini and Robertson joined the group and were able to answer more questions and bring up other points of interest.
Before leaving the Rutland area, a stop was made at the Vermont Marble Museum in Proctor, VT, which celebrates stone in general and Vermont marble in particular. Philip Gawet of Gawet Marble & Granite provided some history of the Vermont marble in the area. The group then had the opportunity to stroll around and look at the various exhibits as well as an abandoned quarry located on the property.
A trip to Bethel WhiteThe final destination of the two-day tour was the Bethel White quarry, which is also owned by Rock of Ages. Once again, Bob Campo joined the group to give some history of the stone and a tour of the site.
“Bethel White has been a really big hit for us,” said Campo, adding that it has been in production since the 1880s. “It’s a very high-end stone. It’s called the whitest granite in the world. That’s the thing about Rock of Ages, we look for unique stones. We want to be different. It creates more market demand and higher prices.”
With the weather cooperating on the second day, group members were able to walk down deep into the quarry site. Campo explained that Rock of Ages gets about 25 to 30% recovery out of the Bethel White quarry.
Campo took time to point out various aspects of the quarrying process and answer questions. “The nice thing about Bethel White - and what also makes it more attractive - is that it can be cut in either direction, and it still looks the same,” he explained.
Upon completion of the tour, the MIA expressed its thanks to all of the sponsors of the seminar as well as to the group of participants. Everyone involved seemed to have thoroughly enjoyed themselves, and they learned a great deal about the quarrying process and history of marble and granite in Vermont and Canada.
The second “Quarry Tours & More” seminar is slated for August 23 and 24, 2007, in Minnesota and South Dakota. For more information about this trip, visit the MIA’s Web site at www.marble-institute.com.