The Westerly Granite Industry

Babcock-Smith House Museum
124 Granite Street
Westerly, RI   02891

Smith Granite Company:  Quarrying the Hall Shaft

The order for the Hall obelisk was placed with the Smith Granite Company in 1895. It is recorded in Book 10 Page 65 of the SGC order books.

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Click here to learn how to read order book.




Once the order was placed, the company purchased special equipment and developed operational procedures to meet the challenges of quarrying.

About fifty feet below the surface, a granite ledge large enough to quarry a piece 50’7” long and 10’4” high was found.  The ledge was cleared of the over-burden (dirt and stone covering the chosen ledge) to make it accessible to quarrymen and their equipment. Because of the size of the stone required, blasting was eliminated as a method of quarrying, because it might result in cracks or breaks in the stone.

The freeing of the stone began as channels were drilled the entire length of the block to insure safe and accurate separation of the block from the ledge. These channels were cut by a large steam-drill (like the one pictured) and core-cutter (called a channel bar).

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When all the channels were cut, and the block was freed from the quarry ledge, chains were wrapped around pins on the top of the stone and attached to blocks and tackles to turn the stone on its side. Piles of wooden logs were placed in front to make "pillows" for the block to land on so it would not be damaged.

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After the block was turned on its side, a series of deep holes, which would assure a straight break from top to bottom, would be drilled the entire length of the block in order to split it in two lengthwise.

Once the granite block was split, one of the blocks was separated and shaped to within eighteen inches of the shaft’s finished dimensions.  By removing the excess granite, it became light enough (seventy-seven tons) to haul to the surface.  The remaining block was cut into smaller pieces for the bases and die. 

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Extra large iron chains then were wound around the shaft with large pieces of wood between them and the stone shaft to prevent the chains from touching and possibly damaging the granite.  It was dragged to the wooden skid-wall in preparation for lifting.

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The top of the shaft was raised so it could be seen over the brow of the quarry.  Hoisting continued until the shaft was at the very top of the shear poles.

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The guys were tightened so the shear poles could not move.  Then one set of guys became taut and other set fell slack as the shear poles leaned away from the edge of the quarry hole.  Finally, the shaft was slowly and safely lowered to the ground.

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The Hall obelisk, made up of several bases, a die, and a large shaft, was simple in design, but bold because of its dramatic size.  The completed monument, set in Woodlawn Cemetery in the Bronx, measured 57 feet high, the height of a five story building.

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