The Westerly Granite Industry


Babcock-Smith House Museum
124 Granite Street
Westerly, RI   02891
401-596-5704
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The Columbia Granite Works--Facilities

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  Sheds & Quarry
      Columbia Granite initially worked in a shed across either Oak or Spruce Streets before they acquired the building on the southeast corner of two streets.  Later, they purchased the former Chapman Quarry and land on Old Hopkinton Road and built a shed there.
      The building at Oak and Spruce was purchased in May 1908 from William D Kenneth (Book-Page 39-574) for $500 to be paid as “labor in cutting and working on granite, or by furnishing granite, or both”.  On Dec 19, 1909, WD Kenneth acknowledged receipt of payment for the building “together with all shafting and other property therein”.  The agreement stipulates, that the sale does not include the Westerly Granite Works name under which Kenneth had been working.  In 1910, Gianni Giuseppina Monti, Elia Monti’s wife, bought the land under the building from Mary and Virginia Vose who had previously rented the land to William D Kenneth (Book-Page 43-93).  A mortgage for $900 obtained from the Industrial Trust Company for the land and building was subsequently paid off and released.  Gianni Monti transferred the land and building to Elia Monti in December of 1912.  In the 1930s Elia Monti and his wife acquired several other parcels of land, some with houses on them, on Oak and Haswell Streets (Book-Page 54-505, 59-196, 59-197, 59-198).  Click on maps for larger image.
  The 1907 Sanborn Insurance map shows the Westerly Granite Works building at the corner of Spruce and Oak Streets that became the location of Columbia Granite Company the next year.  Across Spruce St from Westerly Granite Works is an unlabeled building that is the likely location of Columbia Granite before their move in 1908.
 

The Columbia Granite Works building is shown on the 1912 Sanborn Map Company Insurance Map as a special insert across Oak Street from the A Farrell & Son Monumental Works [Picture from 1912 Map].  The drawing indicates there was a derrick on the north side of the building toward Oak Street and the long one-two story shed was parallel to Spruce Street.  The office was on the Spruce Street side while there was a blacksmith shop and engine room on the opposite side of the shed. 

  The building, with some modifications, is shown again on the 1921 map with the buildings across Oak Street now occupied by William P Pellett & Son [Picture from 1921 map].  The building has been lengthened towards Oak Street and a 120-foot long traveling crane added at the opposite end of the building. 

 


      On Wednesday, December 6, 1922 the Columbia Granite cutting and polishing plant on Oak Street was largely destroyed by a fire.  The Sun in Westerly published a complete description that evening of the incident including the difficulties getting word to the fire department due to the nearest alarm box being inoperable at the corner of Oak and Haswell streets (see 1922 Westerly Sun Dec 6 fire story.doc).  About a dozen men were reported working when the fire was discovered shortly after noon.  None were reported injured, but “the flames spread so rapidly that the men were unable to save any of their working tools.”  The plant, “fitted up with the most modern machinery for cutting, carving, and polishing granite” was a complete loss estimated at $40,000 and $10,000 for the monuments that were completed or in progress.  The fire damage was so severe it was reported in the Boston Evening Globe and the Barre Daily Times, as well as the local paper.  Later that month (December 29, 1922), the Norwich Bulletin reported that “Elia Monti, president of the Columbia Granite Works, …is planning to rebuild his granite cutting sheds and is getting figures from the local building contractors preparatory to building.”  Tax records indicate a large reduction in the assessed value of the building from $2000 to $500 from 1922 to 1923 consistent with the fire; the building valuation decreased in later years and the 1946 update of the Insurance Map from 1921 has deleted the building entirely.
      At auction in December 1920, Elia Monti bought the former Chapman Quarry and a parcel of land across the street, 70 Old Hopkinton Road.  A newspaper story indicated that they wanted to build a railroad spur across Old Hopkinton Road to the quarry and begin cleaning it out in the spring of 1921 (Norwich Bulletin January 19, 1921).  During 1922-23, buildings were constructed on the land raising the assessed building value in 1924 to $5000, more than double the valuation for the building that had burned down on Oak Street.  Additional land was purchased next to the former Chapman Quarry in 1931 so the site was about 20 acres north of Old Hopkinton Road. A request to build a railroad spur across Old Hopkinton Road was approved by Westerly Town Council on December 5, 1932 and a petition submitted to the Rhode Island Public Utilities Commission for a spur at grade was approved on December 21, 1932.  A map of the proposed spur was filed with the town, “Plat of proposed single spur track runing [SIC] from the quarry of the Columbia Granite Co to the present siding of the N.Y.N.H.&H. Railroad at the shed of the Columbia Granite Co.”(see 1932 Spur map).  It shows the cutting plant back from the road toward the railroad, an engine house just off Old Hopkinton Road, and the proposed spur crossing the road running to the quarry. Following the death of Elia Monti in 1943, the quarry was transferred to his heirs until it was sold to Gencarelli, Inc. in December 1957.

 

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