Thursday, October 11, 2012

Industrial archaeology: Redstone Quarry, North Conway, New Hampshire

New Hampshire is known as the "Granite State," and no wonder! There are granite outcrops throughout the state. Since the 1800s, quarries in New Hampshire and adjoining Vermont have provided hard, durable, and beautiful igneous rock for buildings, street paving blocks, monuments, and breakwaters throughout the east coast and even internationally.

Redstone Quarry, in North Conway, operated from 1887 until 1948. The remnants of machinery, derricks, and buildings constitute one of the more interesting industrial archaeological sites in New Hampshire. The most detailed description of the site is at the excellent web site. Some fascinating pre-1948 photographs are posted there.
The Redstone Quarry is at the base of Rattlesnake Mountain in Redstone, NH, (part of the town of Conway). The woods have grown so thickly, there is little to see from the highway, and you have to walk on dirt paths to see the remains.
One of the few standing buildings is the old latrine and bath house.
Further uphill, is the blacksmith's forge and tool conveyor belt. I am not sure of its function, but the little buckets are so sturdy, I assume they were designed to hold hot objects. Possibly tools went through a quenching bath after they had been sharpened or heated.
This is the remains of a boiler. I have not seen the engine house, which would have contained larger boilers, but the White Mountain History web site (link above) shows a photo of a collapsed roof.
Now we come to one of the most interesting sites, the machine building that housed the polishing rock lathe. The wood building is incomplete and is missing some of its roof. I am not sure where the boiler building was located that provided power for the lathes, but it must have been nearby.
This is the 5-ft Face Plate of the polishing lathe and the spindle to hold a rotating column of granite. Can you imagine polishing a column of rock over 5 ft in diameter? Astonishing what craftsmen could do a century ago with equipment that we today consider primitive.
Outside on the ground are remains of the rough turning lathe. You can see where belts (leather?) would have run across different-size pulleys to provide power.
Look at this heavy-duty universal joint, an example of precision machining from almost a century ago. This is how we built a nation: hard work, pride, and precision workmanship.
Not far away in the woods are mounts for wood booms, used to swing rock around the work site. I read that the spruce booms came from the Pacific Northwest on special railroad cars (at that time, timber of sufficient size no longer grew in the US Northeast).
Walk further uphill and you reach the pink quarry. The pit is filled with water, but some of the booms are still standing!
Much of the debris in the pink quarry has tumbled down and is highly unstable. The clean rock face gives you an idea of the quality of the granite from this source.
As you walk west back to town, you come across a dormitory building in surprisingly intact condition. But vandals have added artwork to the inside.
There are examples of the pink granite all around North Conway. This planter is made from pink slabs.
And you see granite fence-posts in town and in area farms. No danger of these posts ever rotting.
This is the Hale cemetery on West Side Road, near the town of Conway. Look at the size of these remarkable granite slabs used as a wall. These may be grey granite from another site, but it was difficult to tell in the waning evening light.
This is a 1920s photograph of a rock lathe from the web page Notice the stoneman is not wearing eye or head protection. Many of these stone workers died young from silicosis, a terrible disease.
On a more cheerful note, autumn in New England is spectacular. The changing leaves are a visual delight. If you have never seen them, you must make this a life goal. This is Pudding Pond, and the tracks once served the Redstone Quarry.

These are digital files from a Panasonic G1 digital camera with 14-45 mm Panasonic Lumix and 9-18mm and 40-150mm Olympus lenses, tripod-mounted. I thank my North Conway friends for showing me these unusual sites. I have some older medium-format film negatives of the quarry that I need to scan and post some day.

Update Nov. 2019: I scanned my 2003 medium format film negatives and wrote a new article on Redstone Quarry. Please click the link to go to the new article. I thank all you readers.


Rick Honer said...

A fascinating account! Many thanks for sharing.

Peggy B. Perazzo, Stone Quarries and Beyond said...

Thank you for this interesting account and photographs available online.

Peggy B. Perazzo
Stone Quarries and Beyond