One of the many natural resources cherished by Mainers is the gift of natural beauty often overlooked and taken for granted. That special something is the granite that formed the foundations of our ancestral homes, farms, mill buildings, statues, and monuments. The beauty of granite created a finishing touch to many structures not only in our community but around the country and the world. The granite varied in color from, light gray to pinkish-buff to conspicuous black mica composition. Some were hard and difficult to work while others were softer and could be cut much easier.
We in southern Maine are fortunate to have many quarries from which we mined granite since the colonial days for structural and aesthetic purposes. It was mined in Biddeford in the early 1800s commercially to provide building material for many structures. The remnants of those quarries still exist along the Pool Road, Granite Street, and the Mountain Road. The shipping docks can be seen along the Saco River where the ships docked to pick up their cargo.
In the 1880s the quarries employed over 500 stone cutters to provide material for many famous structures. The different grades of granite each found a use related to their hardness and workability. Following is where some of our granite was used .
1848- Saco Water Power Company (Pepperell)
1886- New York Harlem Bridge and Philadelphia’s New Market Street Bridge
1888- George Washington Bridge, New York
1892- Chicago World’s Fair
St. Joseph’s Church, Biddeford
Lincoln Memorial, Springfield, Illinois
Breakwaters in the Delaware and Saco Rivers
Stone cutters had few tools in the beginning but as the industrial revolution continued cranes and railroads were used at the quarries to mine the stone and transport it to the ships and later trains. Today the quarries of New England provide many different grades of granite from the hardest (street curbing) to one of the softest for patios and steps.
For further information visit the McArthur Library.