Over the past several years I’ve enjoyed visiting Millstone Quarries (Websterville, VT) in all seasons. Part of the Barre Town forest, this gem is home to several dozen old granite quarries and is filled with remnants of the history of granite quarrying. A series of trails in and around the quarries is a delight at every turn, from long views of the city below to closeups of old tools and evidence of what was—and still is—the heart and soul of the area, granite.
Possibly even more impressive than the water-filled holes in the ground—the actual quarries, small to huge—are the mountains, literally, of “grout,” large granite blocks that were removed but never used.
They form walls and structures that were integral to the operations of the quarries, now left for visitors to marvel at. I’m dwarfed by most of the blocks and humbled by the hundred foot high piles of thousands and thousands of these blocks. Beyond “wow!” my thoughts are “how?!?” and “who?!?!”
Recently, a group of stone cutters has begun to sculpt some of these in place as part of the RockFire Festival. While I was unable to be at the festival, I enjoyed seeing the stone work.
A trails group is actively helping users understand the history of the area with informative signs like this one. In many surrounding towns, including Montpelier, it is still very common to find these old paving blocks under the modern asphalt surface when a street is repaired.
While I know it was once a bustling “factory” with hundreds of workers, noon whistles, the sound of hammers on steel and booming dynamite explosions, I find the real beauty of it now to be the quietude—whether a stone wall reflected in the quarry pond or a summer rain blowing in over the countryside. What a change from days past!