The Quarry Men

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Many residents don't know that Greenwich was well-known for its building stone around the turn of the 19th century.

As a matter of fact, there were several operational quarries in town at this time.  The best known ones were located along the Byram Shore, where Byram Park is located today.  In 1840, Thomas and William Ritch started taking stone from two locations in the park.  One was right behind the boat club.  The fractured stone is still visible today.  The other location was right behind the ball field to the left as you enter the park.  

Futher up Byram Shore Road ( toward what used to be Arnold's Bakery) on the curve was the Voorhis Quarry.  This quarry operated until 1910.  Ten men were employed to remove bluestone.  Sledge hammers and drills were used to cut into the stone.  Then a man would place dynamite into the borings, cover the holes with cloth and wood to direct the explosion down.  Large boulders weighing 1/2- to 1-ton fell to the foot of the quarry.  Two derricks operated by live horses walking around a carousel gave the derricks power to lift stone onto "stone boats", "ox boards" or sleds.  Stonecutters would carve the stones into the required size and shape.  The stone boat would then be dragged by oxen to a scale since buyers paid by weight.  When the stone was ready to ship, a winch was used to load the stone on schooners.  The Voorhis operation was so sophisticated that an office was built to handle bookkeeping, weight recording and timesheets.; 

The stone quarried from Greenwich was used to build the Second Congregational Church, the Presbyterian Church, the Episcopal Churches, and the Roman Catholic Churches!  Furthermore, bluestone was used for the piers (supports) and keystone of the Brooklyn Bridge.  Others report that Greenwich stone was used for various buildings in New York City, breakwaters and docks on Long Island.  There was even a rumor that stone was used in the Statue of Liberty, but this can't be substantiated.

Other quarries in town included the Joseph G. Mead Quarry near Toll Gate Hill and the Milo Mead Quarry behind the New Lebanon School.   The Quarry Knolls area was near Milbrook Country Club was also the site of a smaller quarry.                            .   

This stone also created some problems for those involved with building the railroad and the Connecticut Turnpike.  Officials stated that the stone was the hardest they had ever encountered anywhere!  This means good quality.

After 1900, concrete replaced stone as the chief building material of choice.  In Byram (then known as East Port Chester), residents began lobbying for a public swimming area.  Ritch's quarry was an ideal site.  Despite some resistance, the Ritches sold the site and thought they had made a killing!  Today, it is one of the best parks in Greenwich.



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About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Carl White published on April 6, 2011 9:17 PM.

Genealogy Programs in April was the previous entry in this blog.

Miss Purdy's School and the Banksville Stage is the next entry in this blog.

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