It was 1885 when George B. Milne and two business partners opened a granite manufacturing business in Graniteville, VT. During the following years he joined with other quarry owners to form BM&V. They were primarily in the monument business and their granite was so superior to their competitors product that their business continued to grow. It continued to soar after they hired Hayes Advertising Agency out of Burlington. Following Hayes advice the company adopted the name “Rock of Ages” and they began an advertising campaign to educate people about granite. The national campaign was so successful that people started coming to Vermont to see the quarries. Rock of Ages was in every aspect a success.
Visitor guided tours of the quarry were put into place in the 1940s and 1950s. In 1962 a 2800 square foot visitor’s center was opened and by 1967 over a hundred thousand visitors a year were visiting the quarry.
Today Rock of Ages is owned by the Swenson family who founded Swenson Granite in New England in 1883. The Swenson family retained the name “Rock of Ages” and the quarries are currently managed by 4th generation Swensons. They are the largest producers of cemetery memorials in the US and Canada. The Swensons have continued to grow the tourism division of the business and have built a 5000 square foot visitors’ center and Memorial Design Studio. Their sculptors are the best in the world and you can see them at work and you can even have a hands-on experience designing and making your own granite memento.
Down the road from the quarry in Barre you will find Hope Cemetery and Elmwood Cemetery. Thousands of people from throughout the world visit these cemeteries annually. Daylight was leaving us and so we only went to Hope Cemetery. I am sure Elmwood is equally beautiful and filled with more local history. We saw no flat grave markers in these cemeteries, and if they existed they were overshadowed by the amazing grave stones bearing the most exquisite memorial art. Hope Cemetery is also known as the Outdoor Museum of Granite Sculpture. The granite comes from the local quarries and the creative and skilled sculptors are employed by Rock of Ages.
When visiting in the area don’t overlook the wonderful statutes in Barre: The Scottish immigrants chose to honor Poet Robert Burns.
A 23 foot high, 43 ton statue of a sculptor with chisel and hammer stands in Dente Park in the northern part of Barre. The monument is dedicated to Carlo Abate who came from Italy at the turn of the century and started an art school where students learned drafting, design and other skills associated with the granite industry.
The most popular statue in Barre is the “Soldiers’ and Sailors” memorial, known as “Youth Triumphant”, or “The Whispering Statute.” In the first photo you will notice the sweeping, curved granite bench and if you were to sit at one end and someone else were to sit on the other side of the statue across the plaza and whisper to you — you would be able to hear them. It is the curvature of the bench wall that carries the sound. The statute itself is the figure of a young warrior praying for peace. This image is the City trademark and was adopted as the City Seal.
This is a day trip that should rank in everybody’s top 25 “littleUSAtrips” to take!