World-renowned for it’s high quality marble, Danby Mountain has been quarried since the late 18th century when early settlers in the area split blocks of the marble from high mountain ledges to use for headstones. The Grady Family and Western Vermont Marble Company made the first opening into the mountain in 1842. Since then the Imperial Quarry has expanded to more than 45 acres, or 1.5 miles deep, and has six different levels of marble, ranging from the pure white Imperial marble to veins of blue, green, gold, and grey.
Having discovered the seemingly endless amount of marble hidden in the Taconic Mountain range, early industrialists recognized the profitable opportunity before them and began mining. The first 25 years of the mine saw great and quick expansion, and the valley towns of Danby and Mount Tabor reaped the benefits as mills for processing the large blocks into slabs as well as the completion of the Western Vermont Railroad through the area allowed for a labor force of nearly 300 men in just the quarry alone.
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The Western Vermont Railroad went bankrupt in 1857 however, and the quarry sat dormant for nearly half a century until the Vermont Marble Company bought the holdings and revved production back into full gear in response to the boom in marble architecture across the country. Danby marble has since been shipped all over the world and has been used in such notable projects as the Jefferson Memorial, Arlington National Cemetery and hundreds of other buildings and monuments around the world.
The high quality of Danby marble comes from its color, strength, durability, and purity. Formed by densely arranged crystals of calcium carbonate that originates from the increased pressure and temperature in sedimentary rock layers of common limestone, marble is formed after millions of years of powerful contractions that recrystallize the limestone into marble as a result of heat. The local use of Danby marble dating back to the 18th century is a testament to the durability of this marble, and only further proves why Vermont is home to the most sought after marble in the world.
Danby Tunnel Quarry
The Tunnel Quarry was opened in 1935 and provided such fine specimens as the Supreme Court Building and the Red Cross building in Washington, DC as well as the Arlington Memorial and Oregon State Capitol. A mile long road rising 900 feet up from the valley was built to access this quarry as well as a short railroad to take the blocks to the incline railway going down the side of the mountain.
More than thirty 25 foot square piers rise 90 feet from the floor to the ceiling of this quarry in order to hold up the mountain above this underground chamber. It covers nearly 8 acres. In the 1930s electric-air machinery was used as well as a system of derricks to swing the blocks of marble onto a cable car where it would ride one mile down an incline railway to the loading gantry on the Rutland Railroad where it would be loaded on flat cars and taken to the fabricating plants in Proctor, VT. Blocks weighing up to 80 tons were taken out over this cable system. The blocks used as the bases for the statues at the Supreme Court weighed 63 tons each. After these massive projects the Tunnel Quarry fell into disuse until Quarry Superintendent Michael Blair re-opened it in 2016 and is once again providing a fine source of marble.