Archive for January 1st, 2020

Happy New Year!

Wednesday, January 1st, 2020

I kicked off 2020 in auspicious style with a bracing winter morning guided hike in a nature preserve. Because there is no rest unto the history nerd, the area turns out to have been quarried for granite in the 19th century. There were several quarry pits, once blasted to blocks, now picturesque views for random passersby.

Even in the steam age, those quarry pits were worked only with immense effort, and at this site for granite that was of mediocre quality at best, good for curbing and trimming. The clifftops had to be cleared of copious vegetation, a seam in the granite identified, holes drilled in it and black power packed into them to blast open the seam. Blocks weighing tens of tons were raised with wooden derricks and shifted to cutting sheds to be sized, shaped and polished to order.

When the industry died in the 1920s, its lifeblood choked off by the sudden spike in demand for black powder and soldiers during World War I, the quarry operators didn’t bother clearing out all that heavy iron and wood equipment. The result is things like this in the middle of a rare pine pitch barren preserve.

One of the hikers called it a “boom,” but I have no idea what that is in a 19th century quarrying context.

May your New Year be full of happy accidental history!

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