Thursday, January 28, 2016

Granite at the Wharf

Practically speaking, transporting stone any distance in the nineteenth century meant loading it onto ships.

Federal projects to fortify Boston Harbor islands and to build shipyards provided an early impetus to the granite business. Entrepreneurs at the forefront of these opportunities took note of Cape Ann's geological bounty and the quarried stone already reaching its shoreline. In the same year that the Quincy Granite Railway went into operation, 1826, William Torrey of that city transplanted himself here into a series of partnerships with Gloucester and Rockport quarrymen.1 

People who have never visited Cape Ann, have little or no idea of the astonishing quantity of beautiful granite of which the Cape is composed. There is enough to build many cities as large as Boston....The quantity annually prepared for market, either in a hewn or rough state, is 100,000 tons. To carry on this extensive business, nearly 300 men are employed, and about 40 yokes of oxen. Gloucester Telegraph, August 17, 1839
Loading Granite at Knowlton's Wharf, Alfred J. Wiggin 1852
(Present day Beach and Granite Streets, Rockport)
Painting at Sandy Bay Historical Society
Alfred Wiggin depicts granite sloops picking up cargo at adjacent beach and wharf. Workmen lifting with tackles suspended from the mast use a second rope to swing the stone laterally on board. The wharf gives deeper draft to the ships, brings the teams closer, and eases the men's exertions.

Wiggin painting detail
During the 1830s wharf developments sprouted along the seashore at most of the important shipping points utilized over the next hundred years of the stone era. By 1836 William Torrey owned 6 sloops and had erected the first derrick on Cape Ann. He later partnered with Beniah Colburn in working quarries at Bay View where his son also William carried on.

In 1827 William Torrey quarried the outcrops along Folly Cove to obtain granite for the Charleston and Portsmouth Navy Yards. Those tempting shoreline ledges yielded blocks that must have been challenging to load aboard ships along the still-raw coast.
The late nineteenth century at Folly Cove
Sandy Bay Historical Society photo
Wide open to the northeast storms, Folly Cove had always been a hazardous place for wharfage.  It's original name Gallup's Folly Cove is attributed to a Mr. Gallup who built a short-lived timber pier there in early colonial times. Later developments introduced more substantial materials and techniques. Extensive granite deposits on Halibut Point and a stone wharf tucked into the lee of the peninsula in 1869 set the stage for development of the Babson Farm Quarry.

Granite sloop extending the breakwater sheltering the Folly Cove wharf
John and Betty Erkkila, Souvenirs of Pigeon Cove, 2014
 A massive federal project once again propelled the industry. The Sandy Bay Harbor of Refuge was conceived to shelter coastal shipping within a 1.6 mile long  breakwater rising from sixty foot depths. The Rockport Granite Company built a railroad down from Babson Farm Quarry to the wharf at Folly Cove.

The railroad trestle to the Folly Cove Pier in 1915
Trolley tracks visible to the left side of Granite Street.
Charles Cleaves photo, courtesy of Sandy Bay Historical Society

Locomotive Nella delivering granite blocks to Folly Cove
Charles Cleaves photo, courtesy of Sandy Bay Historical Society
The wharf supported the transfer of enormous granite blocks onto ships for capping the Breakwater once its foundation rose above sea level.

Two fishing schooners and a granite schooner moored in Lanes Cove
Annisquam Historical Society photo
Down the coast a bit the Lanes Cove Pier Company juggled the interests of fishermen, coal suppliers, and granite exporters within its diminutive sanctuary. This photograph suggests the hierarchy of vessels. A mooring stone thrusts up a tree-trunk tethering pole in the foreground. Horse teams are delivering paving stones to the schooner at the wharf. Periodically the Pier Company engaged contractors to improve the harbor by blasting out ledge and dredging out bottom debris, some of which was inadvertently dropped in the granite operations.2

Paving blocks from cart to wharf into hold with a loading chute3
A sample of reports in the Gloucester Daily Times, 1894 

Jan 15 - last year Lanes Cove sent 103 large schooners to Philadelphia and New York and smaller vessels to nearby ports with freights of  3,000,000 paving blocks and 20,000 tons of other granite 

Jan 28  - Sch Howell Leeds loaded yesterday by Superintendent Hayden for Wm P Barker 50,000 paving in less than 3 hours for Philadelphia, run down through large chute from wharf.
Dec 5 - Sch Sarah Wood arrived in Lanesville Tuesday 4th 8:00, loaded by Wm. P. Barker's men in 4 1/2 hours, left for Philadelphia with 32,000 paving early afternoon

To accomplish these prodigious wharf-side feats the employers must have sent crews down from quarries to load the vessels.

Granite sloops, Lanes Cove
Photo courtesy of Paul St. Germain, Cape Ann Granite
This Lanes Cove view shows the advance in granite sloop design to integrate a loading derrick with the mast structure. Sloops so rigged could handle large stones self-sufficiently.

Locomotive Vulcan at the Granite Pier, Rockport
Photo courtesy of John and Betty Erkkila4
As time went on the quarry operators improved their methods for saving time and space at the wharf. The Rockport Granite Company's locomotive Vulcan delivered paving stones to Granite Pier in cutout steam boilers ready to be lifted by derrick and poured into the hold of the ship.  

From these wharves granite went forth in rough and finished forms to substantiate roads, buildings, breakwaters, port facilities and monuments along the American coast, and beyond.

1. Allen Chamberlain, Pigeon Cove, Its Early Settlers & Their Farms 1702-1840, 1940.
2. See, for example, Gloucester Daily Times August 23, 1894.
3. This photograph from the Rockport National Bank calendar November, 1997 is otherwise unattributed.
4. John and Betty Erkkila have presented a dandy collection of photographs in Souvenirs of Pigeon Cove, 2014.

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