In a grand design to rebuild lower Manhattan, a new building named the Freedom Tower will be the centerpiece of a six-building plan at the site where the World Trade Center once stood. New York Governor George Pataki marked the start of construction for the new tower on July 4, and the focus of the occasion was the placement of a 20-ton piece of granite, quarried in the Adirondack Mountains of New York State and donated by Innovative Stone of Hauppauge, NY.

Flecked throughout with crystals of garnet, the official gemstone of New York State, the Freedom Stone measures approximately 9 feet high, 5 feet wide and 4 feet deep. Other minerals in the stone are feldspar, quartz and hornblende, which give the stone a light green tone from different views. An inscription on the cornerstone reads, “To honor and remember those who lost their lives on September 11th, 2001 and as a tribute to the enduring spirit of freedom -- July Fourth 2004. “Today we take 20 tons of Adirondack granite -- the bedrock of our state -- and place it as the foundation, the bedrock of a new symbol of American strength and confidence,” Pataki said at the July 4 ceremony. “Today, we lay the cornerstone for a new symbol of this city and this country and of our resolve in the face of terror.”

Silverstein Properties, which had worked with Innovative on other Manhattan projects, selected Innovative to source, cut, polish and engrave the new cornerstone. The “Freedom Stone,” as Innovative has officially named it, was unveiled by Pataki along with New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and New Jersey Governor James McGreevey at a special ceremony attended by VIPs from Silverstein Properties, the Port Authority, the architectural firm of Skidmore, Owings and Merrill, designer Daniel Libeskind, and members of the 9/11 victims' families.

“This cornerstone is undoubtedly the most rewarding and compelling assignment in the entire history of our company,” said Innovative Stone CEO and founder Karen Pearse. “We are enormously proud to be able to help Governor Pataki and the people of New York inaugurate the rebirth of our great city.”

In addition to donating the stone, worth approximately $14,000, Innovative Stone supervised the cutting, polishing, engraving and leafing of the inscription; transportation of the stone to Ground Zero (which was donated by RoadTex of Hillside, NJ) from Innovative, and the actual installation of the stone at the ceremony. Though the Freedom Stone may ultimately be unseen once the Tower is complete, Pearse said, “It will forever remain a symbolic cornerstone for the rebuilding of New York and the nation. This project is a symbol of triumph and renewal.”

Barton Quarries, a division of Barton Mines Co. LLC, quarried the stone in the Adirondack Mountains of northern New York for Innovative. Since 1876, Barton Mines has grown to become the world's leading producer of high-quality industrial garnet abrasive products. “Throughout our long history, Barton Mines Co. has been committed to the patriotic needs of our nation. Our garnet powder has been used to polish the sights on World War II aircraft, the windows of the space shuttle and the lens on the Hubble space telescope. Our products are used to cut the armor plating for Humvees and to finish the hulls of aircraft carriers,” said Charles H. Bracken Jr., chairman of The Barton Group. “May this stone be a lasting tribute to the birth of our nation on Independence Day and our rebirth following the tragic events of September 11, 2001.” The Barton Group is headquartered in Lake George, NY, and has 200 employees at locations in the U.S. and Australia.

Pataki personally traveled to Innovative's facility on Long Island to view the stone before its unveiling. “Everyone at Innovative Stone is extremely proud and honored to be a part of this tribute to New York City's resolve and optimism,” said Pearse. “And we were delighted to host Governor Pataki at our Long Island facility to inspect the stone.” Pearse pointed out that this project could not have been accomplished without the help of many people, and she took the opportunity to single out Innovative Stone's project manager, Anthony Iorio, who provided round-the-clock care for the stone.

The skyscraper is expected to be 1,776 feet tall, so designed to mark the year of American independence. Initial occupancy is scheduled for 2008.