Rock of Ages Granite Quarry
Tour the world’s largest deep-hole dimension granite quarry, view the plant where gravestones are made, and roll a ball down the outdoor granite bowling alley. All in Barre.

Visiting Rock of Ages Corp. granite quarries is basically a tour of the immense.

The quarry itself is the world’s largest deep-hole dimension granite quarry, and though 600 feet of its depths are under a well of milky-green water, the quarry is astoundingly huge.

A school bus drives visitors up a bumpy road to the site, which can be viewed from behind a gate. What was once an operation requiring the hard manual labor of a few hundred men is today manned by about 7, with the help of some impressive machinery.

The bus ride up passes piles and piles of granite blocks – since 1885, quarry workers have simply dumped pieces of granite with fractures or cracks in these piles, called “grout piles,” which comes from the Scottish word for scrap (many Scots worked in the quarry in its early days). These piles are all over the town.

After the tour of the quarry, visitors can take a self-guided tour of the granite plant, which, again, is gigantic. Huge blocks of granite are moved around, cut, polished, and engraved for gravestones. The plant is a hive of activity, incredibly busy after the slow moving machinery of the quarry. Most of America’s granite headstones come from right here.

Before leaving, visitors can help themselves to some free souvenir granite from a granite scrap bin, and roll a few frames of bowling down the outdoor, granite lane. The Rock of Ages experimented with granite bowling lanes in the 1950s, but the concept never caught on. This lane was a prototype during those heady years, and has recently been restored for family fun. Sadly, the balls are rubber and the pins are light plastic, so the joy of bowling for many of us (throwing a hard heavy thing at other hard heavy things) is lost.
Hope Cemetery
Large cemetery known as the museum of granite sculpture.

Located in Barre, Vermont, the “Granite Capital of the World,” Hope Cemetery serves not only as a place to remember those who work outside the craft and are buried there, but also as a tribute to the stone cutters and artisans interred amongst the sculptures they created while they lived.

Established in 1895, Hope Cemetery consisted then of 53 acres designed and planned by the renowned landscape architect Edward P. Adams. By that time, stone cutters from all over the world, especially Italy, were flocking to Barre, Vermont, to enjoy the booming granite industry in the city. It is estimated than one out of every three memorials found across the United States was made using granite mined in Barre.

Barre is also known for having an uncommonly high death rate, but that, too, is related to the industry that made it famous. Silicosis, a respiratory disease that is caused by inhaling granite dust, led to an abnormal number of deaths in the area. When the Spanish Flu swept through the area, many knew that death could be just around the corner and got to work designing their own tombstones. This tradition has carried on ever since and about 75 percent of all of the tombstones found in Hope Cemetery were carved by the occupants of the graves they sit above.

Now about 65 acres in size, Hope Cemetery holds more than 10,000 tombstones and memorials. A common tourist destination, Hope Cemetery is known as the museum of granite sculpture or the gallery of granite artistry.

From Hope Cemetery to Thunder Road Speedbowl Barre Vermont, there are a variety of budget-friendly attractions in Barre and in nearby cities within 25 miles like Stowe, Montpelier, Waitsfield and Waterbury.

Barre Opera House

The Barre City Hall and Opera House is located at 12 North Main St. in Barre, 802-476-8188. It is open from 8:30am to 5:00pm. Ticket prices for performances vary.

Completed in 1899, the Barre City Hall and Opera House contains one of the best preserved late 19th century small theater interiors in northern New England. Facing the town common, the building is one of Barre’smost important landmarks. The imposing Neoclassical building was designed by George G. Adams, a well-known Massachusetts architect who was responsible for many public buildings throughout New England. The building represents an era when citizens had great public pride in their civic buildings, as well as the economic prosperity and growth Barre experienced at the end of the 19th century.

One hundred years later, the building still functions as it did originally. Offices for City Hall occupy the first floor, while the Opera House encompasses the upper floors. When it opened in August 1899 the Opera House was considered the finest theater in the State. Leading New York, Boston, and Chicago theater companies graced the stage, while John Philip Sousa, Helen Keller, James O’Neill, and Tom Mix (who appeared with his horse) were a few of the many individuals who entertained Barre audiences. Opera was quite popular with Barre’s Italian population, several of whom formed their own company and performed Italian operas on the Barre stage. Unfortunately, the Opera House experienced a decline in use after World War I, after which it was mainly used to show motion pictures, and eventually closed in 1940 for a period of more than 40 years.

The Opera House reopened in 1982, although in need of much repair. It was renovated over the next decade, and in 1993 a grand reopening took place showcasing the theater and three nights of local talent. Many of the original interior details remain including the original balcony and ornamented boxes, proscenium arch, art glass fanlight and pressed metal ceiling. The exterior of the yellow and red brick structure, like so many in Barre, features ornamental granite.

SAINT MONICA’S CHUCRH ,BERRE

St. Monica’s Church in the 1960’s

Saint Monica’s Church is a Roman Catholic parish located on Summer Street, in the city of Barre, Vermont.  Originally, the congregation dates from the early settlement of Barre in the 1880’s.

Before St. Monica’s was established, it was a mission stemming from the St. Augustine’s Church in Montpelier, where those seeking worship would travel from Barre to Montpelier.  In 1887, after being assigned the responsibility of preparing services for worship in the parishes of Graniteville, Barre and Moretown, a Father William J. O’Sullivan succeeded the Pastor of St. Augustine’s in Montpelier.  Upon his ordainment, he began to lay cornerstones in Graniteville for the construction of St. Sylvester’s Church and in Barre for St. Monica’s Church.  Construction was rapid, and soon both churches were consecrated.

The construction of these parishes were in response to the growing populations of the Italian and Irish Catholics who migrated to the Barre area seeking work in the Granite Industry.  At that time, the Catholic “settlers оf Barre hаd been traveling tо worship аt Montpelier. However, frоm 1881 the Catholic population hаd swollen tо the point thаt the priest frоm Montpelier wаs traveling tо Barre tо conduct worship fоr 31 families, initially іn the town hall. By 1886 the priest hаd leased а disused academy building tо accommodate the Barre Mission. А new purpose-built church wаs then needed.”

“The church wаs finished оn October 2, 1887. Saint Monica’s cost $25,000 tо build, including the lot fоr the church аnd rectory. The church wаs built tо accommodate the growing number оf Roman Catholic families, especially оf Irish, Italian, аnd French descent, whо were flocking tо Barre tо wоrk іn the granite industry. The dedication tо St Monica, related tо the fact thаt the original Montpelier Church wаs dedicated tо Monica’s son, Saint Augustine. Since іts founding, Saint Monica’s has undergone several major renovations.”

With all that is said and done, I suppose it is appropriate that St. Monica’s Church exists and her sainthood is revered in Barre.

Places to eat around Barre.

Espresso Bueno
248 North Main St., Barre, VT 05641

802-479-0896

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Category: Café

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Alcohol: Yes

Cornerstone Pub & Kitchen
47 North Main St., Barre, VT 05641

802-476-2121

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Category: Restaurant

Meals: Lunch, Dinner

Alcohol: Yes

Mister Z’s Pizza
379 North Main St., Barre, VT 05641

802-479-3259

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Category: Restaurant

Meals: Lunch, Dinner

Alcohol: Yes

Positive Pie
219 North Main St., Barre, VT 05641

802-622-8051

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Category: Restaurant

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Alcohol: Yes

Steak House Restaurant
1239 US Route 302, Barre, VT 05641

802-479-9181

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Category: Restaurant

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Alcohol: Yes

The Quarry Kitchen + Spirits
210 N Main St., Barre, VT 05641

802-479-7002

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Category: Restaurant

Meals: Lunch, Dinner

Alcohol: Yes

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