Do You Operate a Retail Business, Gallery, or Perhaps Run a Society, Association or Club of Some Kind Here in Colorado or Know Someone Who Does ?
Then please consider hosting my new well-informed, entertaining and engaging audio visual presentation
Let me alert your group to the quite amazing transformation currently underway up at the quarry and of the opportunities that await once they bring Colorado Yule Marble to the American market in commercial quantities not seen since the heady days of the Lincoln Memorial Boom Years
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Just think for a moment of the many glorious opportunities presented to Coloradans by Italian Red Graniti’s huge financial and material investment in our State Rock
How fortunate we are that after 125 years locked in the perpetual struggle for viability Colorado Yule Marble is about to reach its full potential in our lifetimes
Over the course of an entertaining and informed presentation I will lead your gathering, via an informal question and answer format, through events surrounding Yule Marble’s long and prestigious past, its impressive present and exciting future. Utilizing the voluminous information that I have carefully assembled I will present martincooney.com articles upon a monitor screen while the audience if they wish may follow in real time on their various devices
Little Known Fact: Did you know that each and every massive block destined for the Lincoln Memorial had to be winched up and out of the quarry, over the hump, through the portal and then carefully lowered all the way down a steep and thoroughly treacherous cliff face? Whatever you know, or thought you knew, about Colorado Yule Marble, you will understand much more about the quarry, its history and spectacular quality of the marble itself by the end of my presentation.
Courtesy of Marble Museum, Colorado
And so why has this storied quarry’s fortune thus far been one of hardship, glory and bankruptcy ? Usually with one following the other in swift order !
Although first discovered in the spring of 1873 by geologist Sylvester Richardson, Colorado Yule marble, now the state rock, was named after the prospector who rediscovered it a full ten years later after nothing had transpired from the original discoverer’s efforts to capitalize upon his find. And that – his last name – was pretty much all he contributed to the story, as he then promptly disappeared back into the wild rugged and untamed wilderness that was almost the entire Rocky Mountain Range at the time.
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Between the years 1885 to 95 many local miners acquired claims and attempted to retrieve sufficient commercial grade marble to offset their costs; but without contacts, transportation or anything amounting to marble quarrying skills – much different to those required by mineral ore extraction – the result of their efforts never left the valley; with much effort, time and money ultimately going to waste.
Yule marble was off to a rocky start to say the least, if you’ll forgive the pun, for unless someone with sufficient wealth should step up to the plate to build the necessary infrastructure and also provide some all important connections within the building industry, then the entire Colorado Yule Marble project, including the Lincoln Memorial, would simply never have happened.
Thankfully however, for all those who love The Yule, in 1892 the undoubted potential presented by Yule’s superb quality caught the attention of the 7th richest man in the country – none other than John Cleveland Osgood, widely known as “The Fuel King of the West”. Orphaned by age 14 he nevertheless shot like a meteor through the ranks of the fuel business, from what I can gather, by sheer force of personality and persistence. It is said of him that at one point he personally visited every commercial mine in the Rocky Mountains so as to ensure that he ONLY bought the very best operations: and buy he did.
Sadly, by 1904 the Fuel King of the West found himself having to go cap in hand to his old allies and business partners for a little friendly loan. When the money he had expected was flatly refused however – with their idea being to offer him a job working for them – he calmly stood up from the table and announced to his former companions before walking out the door: ‘Gentlemen, John Cleveland Osgood works for no man, goodbye.”
And with that he promptly walked away from a financial empire that he had single-mindedly assembled after being orphaned at the age of 14. Just how such a fortune could dwindle so rapidly is up for debate, but at this time Osgood was pouring vast amounts of money into expanding and equipping the Yule marble project – with a very hands on approach it must be said, to the point whereby in fact it rapidly became his pet project, much to the mirth of his former business companions I’m sure.
Hot on the heels of the glamorous Osgood Years came the fabulous Meek Era. Arriving upon the scene in 1905 with over three million dollars of investment Channing Franklin Meek immediately threw himself at the task of reorganizing and expanding the entire marble quarrying, milling and transportation operation.
Nothing short of spectacular in its ambition and scope, Meek’s successful ‘Integrated Operation’ for the first time brought the entire quarry operation under one chain of command – his own, of course.
Under Channing F. Meek’s personal stewardship the quarry, along with the town of Marble, Colorado, boomed like never before, or since as it happens, to the point that these years are now fondly viewed as something of a golden age by all those with a love for Yule marble.
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Disaster strikes however in 1912 when all is thrown into disarray as Channing Meek is killed after being struck by, and/or leaping to avoid, a runaway something or another (accounts vary) – which sounds a bit odd to me. It seems ‘careless in the extreme’ I would say for these otherwise thorough and professional marble quarriers to be so sloppy as to let anything ‘runaway’ to the point that it leads directly to the needless death of their boss. By all accounts it took the poor man three days to die of the horrible wounds sustained by landing upon a giant pile of waste marble blocks. Events such as this are very rare in a marble quarry and for it happen to the man in charge, well it all seems quite implausible if I am honest, for nothing runs away in a quarry, there are far too many fail safes for that, and if it did happen then what is the chance of it happening to the main man?
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For many people familiar with the long and at times anguished history of the Colorado Yule marble quarry it is a familiar refrain that Channing Meek’s awful death damned the fortunes of not only the commercial marble quarrying operation but that of the entire formerly bustling and ambitious little town of Marble, Colorado. Imagine what must have been going through their minds having lost their jobs, their livelihoods and careers, as the people watched on – if they were still around and had not already moved on – in 1942 as their magnificent marble mill, the largest of its modern type in the world at the time, was torn apart and ransacked for its steel just six months after America entered into World War Two. Such drastic scenes must have put paid to any remaining hope of a Colorado Yule marble revival.
Surely this fine facility could easily be converted to manufacturing almost anything made out of wood, steel or anything else required by the war effort, even as demand for marble had evaporated with the outbreak of war. But alas no thought was given to a post war scenario as the entire mill was summarily and systematically destroyed. Accounts of the usefulness of the plant’s metal to the war effort are to my knowledge unavailable, but what do you think would have served the cause better: destroying a massive and perfectly viable mill for its steel, or refit the state of the art marble plant to manufacture whatever was needed, say for the Army’s 10th Mountain Division located quite nearby? Also, if they had not trashed it the plant no doubt would have sprung back to life at the war’s end when demand for marble would bounce back? And what a magnificent facility this would have been for the G.I.s to return home to from the war. Such a colossal waste.
In destroying what was at the time the world’s largest and certainly best equipped marble mill of its type, all hope must have died in the hearts of those who loved Colorado Yule Marble and had poured their lives so willingly and enthusiastically into forging its success. Seemingly the dream was completely dead and surely the quarry would now remain closed and abandoned for evermore.
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At the peak of its success from 1905 through 1914 the remote Colorado Rocky Mountain town of Marble could boast a peak population of 1,500 residents, a movie theater, three hotels, 9 stables, 5 ice houses, and an ice cream parlor. But by 1945, with the town suffering another catastrophic flood, just 4 years after the last one, the town’s population dipped to just one: Theresa Herman, the school teacher.
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BUT NOW FOR THE GOOD NEWS
Thankfully and quite miraculously EACH OF THE CRITICAL POINTS THAT I WILL NOW OUTLINE BELOW HAVE BEEN ADDRESSED AND VANQUISHED
Much credit for the current revival must go to the very organized, well-financed and experienced owners: none other than the Italian marble quarrying giants RED GRANITI of MASSA, located in the heart of the Carrara Marble Quarrying Region of North Western Tuscany
Quite frankly the progress that Colorado Marble Quarries, under their parent company Red Graniti of Massa, have made since acquiring the quarry in 2011 has been nothing short of astonishing, all the while maintaining the very highest standard of environmental stewardship for good measure.
But upon reflection I suppose it should come as no surprise that an outfit so steeped in centuries of marble quarrying experience would make short work of modernizing and reviving such a promising investment as Yule marble. Why else would these proud Italian quarrymen cross the world and leave their beloved homeland if it were not for their love of marble ? And if you think about it – ask yourself too – why would they make this scale of investment in a quarry perched so precariously in such a difficult, remote, rugged and fiercely protected terrain ? Especially one with such a tortured and seemingly ill-fated history – when they have plenty of top quality marble right in their own back yard ?
And So, Here I Present
Three Major Reasons Why Colorado Yule Marble Struggled to Thrive For Over One Hundred Years
All of which have now been addressed and no longer affect the current quarry operators, but we’ll get to that
Reason 1) The Quarry is Very Remote with all of the major markets for top quality marble such as Yule inconveniently located one or two thousand miles away and across a plethora of formidable landscapes. Anything headed east had to cross a slew of high mountain passes including of course the continental divide. And to the west vast deserts and mountain ranges proved just as arduous a challenge, perhaps even more. To the north and south there were few if any commercial markets for world class marble.
Plus, you have to take into account the rigors applied to heavy blocks of finished marble being transported on top of industrial rail cars as they are unceremoniously shunted in and out of the many sidings and stock yards along the way, not to mention the rhythmic clickety-clack of the track itself bouncing the stone around along the entire length of the journey.
Jostled and jolted between one train to the next long enough, hard enough and often enough and even the very best marble in the world can and sometimes did eventually succumb to such unavoidable abuse, given that railroads were the only realistic of moving marble in those days, with cracks showing up at points along the journey that were no doubt quite invisible at the outset.
Reason 2) The Quarry is Perched at 9,300 feet above the remote Rocky Mountain town of Marble, Colorado, thus endures powerful blizzards, rock and snow slides as routine events. But whatever the weather and conditions, each and every block had none-the-less to be winched up out of the quarry chamber, out and over the portal, and immediately lowered down a steep and treacherous cliff face. It was then loaded onto a hydro-electric powered tram rail car for the four mile ride down and along a steep track into the Town of Marble – traversing no less than 7 avalanche zones along the way – where it would take its place within the world’s largest marble finishing mill at the time.
Now, surely, the full picture of the early quarrymen’s incredibly arduous task, combined with the harsh reality of their at times brutal struggle with the combined forces of nature, serve as stunning testament to their remarkable achievements, even as the spectacularly ambitious Colorado Yule Marble Quarry project itself, as a commercial venture, never quite succeeded. In fact, the failure of Yule marble ultimately has nothing to do with a flaw in the quality of the stone, as I hear repeatedly mentioned in conversation – usually by those with little knowledge of the subject it must be said. For at this moment in time Colorado Yule marble is now widely accepted as being among the ‘finest marble ever quarried‘, which is quite the accolade for such an excruciatingly remote and inconvenient marble to quarry such as that of The Yule.
Reason 3) Italians Did Not Run the Quarry. Yes, it is a sad fact but true, and one we will have to live with now that we can at last see and appreciate for ourselves just what an expert, experienced and well financed Italian outfit can make of our old unprofitable Yule marble quarry.
For instance, aside from re-organizing the quarry itself to negate all of the up and over winching they were doing by running a tunnel straight into the quarry – as I saw for myself they did over in Carrara at around the same time, I think they would have drawn a few of the incredible challenges presented by a project on the Lincoln Memorial’s vast, unheard of scale.
They would know just what quarrying so many extraordinarily large blocks of marble would mean for all involved in the project. Not just any blocks however, but so many hundreds of PERFECT (for that’s what they had to be) quarry stones – both STRUCTURALLY AND AESTHETICALLY, as demanded by the monument’s unusually authentic load-bearing Greek Temple scale and design.
Above we see just one of the dozens of huge lintel stones, and in the drawing below you can see how they string from the center of one column to the next in a continuous row stretching all the way around the building. Extracting such colossal and perfect blocks proved very costly in terms of waste material being summarily tossed aside, instead of being allocated to another project as would be the case normally, in an all out attempt to meet the crucial Lincoln Memorial dedication ceremony deadline.
In addition the quarry had to find sufficient equally perfect blocks for the 38 columns, each comprising 11 drums plus a top piece, with each of the column drums requiring a 32 ton block from which to be carved. with each of the 418 drums requiring 18 multiple man hours to fashion.
In my opinion, I think that experienced Italian quarrymasters would have immediately pointed out such problems before they were encountered head on, as seems to have been the case. I think that serious efforts could have been made to cut the stone in such a way that the incredible waste ratio of something like 80 percent and more, would have been reduced to a minimum. But in any case, whatever their thoughts on the matter, and after seeing just what they have now accomplished in the 9 years that they have been in control up at the quarry, no doubt such knowledgeable and experienced quarrymen would have put their collective minds together and come up with something of a solution other than filling the entire cliff face with perfectly good but patently ‘too small’ chunks of excellent marble.
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There is a reason why modern architecture – meaning anything since the days of Ancient Greece – avoid such monumental quarry blocks as demanded for the hundreds of huge column drums and lintels required by the Lincoln Memorial’s 2,000 year old Greek Temple design. Marble is very heavy, weighing in at around 170 lbs per cubic foot, which is the same as granite, but marble measures up at a fraction of its strength, leading to cracks possibly forming once the block is set in motion, and the more motion the more likely the cracks are to appear.
These days it is safe to say that the quarry is operating more efficiently, more productively and way more environmentally sound than any quarry in the world, for if there is an outfit anywhere with a cleaner record than our Colorado Yule marble quarry then I have yet to hear of it.
All of which means that now more than any point in its long and storied history Colorado Yule Marble is about to impact itself upon the American market like never before. The Yule is Cool Again, and best of all, more of a long term business opportunity now than any point in its long, proud but oft times tortured history.
Now, with the benefit of hindsight, let’s round out this post and take another quick look at those pesky three reasons I mentioned earlier that have dogged the Colorado Yule Marble story from day one but thankfully each of which have now been nullified by the current quarry management
Reason 1) The Quarry is Very Remote. Well, not anymore it isn’t. That was then and this is now. Gone are the bumpy railcars and in their place are the smooth-as-silk, sprung, flatbed trucks. Not only that, but very soon Red Graniti’s Colorado Stone Quarries is to open a brand new state of the art fabrication plant over in nearby Delta. And so not only will the journey from quarry to market be inordinately smoother it will be incredibly shorter in distance. From their Delta plant finished counter tops, sawn blocks and dimension masonry, tiles and who knows what will reach every part of the country via the nearby national interstate system.
Reason 2) The Quarry is Perched at 9,300 feet. So what ? No problem, the Italians have taken care of it. Their solution was to punch through “the first new portal at the Yule marble quarry in over a hundred years“. In doing so they instantly negated the whole problem of winching each piece up over the huge ridge that had grown around the old portal and which had previously demanded so much extra work simply to extract the marble from the quarry. These days the marble is simply wheeled out of the quarry using some of the world’s largest and most powerful forklift trucks. For immediately upon taking control of the quarry the new owners ‘junked’ all existing equipment and replaced it with a fleet of new vehicles – the very best I might add, but then again, well of course !
Reason3) Italians Did Not Run the Quarry. Well they do now, and just like that – the quarry is transformed. They came, they saw and they conquered every conceivable obstacle, barrier and logistical conundrum they could lay their hands on and working tirelessly to finally set in motion the full potential of our beloved Colorado Yule Marble – our state rock after all – for the first time in it’s long, proud, storied history. Now watch as Yule marble products of all kinds begin to enter the market across the nation, with old and new marble products – some of which have yet to be conceived presenting opportunities galore for anyone with an interest in the exciting new Colorado Yule Marble Industry that is to come.
And Finally, Why Me?
Who am I to tell you all about Colorado Yule Marble
and the many opportunities that this exciting new era will bring to Coloradans everywhere
Firstly, I know an awful lot about the subject having carved it extensively, researched it thoroughly and presented huge amounts of information right here at martincooney.com for several years
Secondly, I enjoy talking and engaging with people, particularly on subjects so close to my heart as this
Thirdly, my personality makes for a fun and interesting presentation that I know by experience is well received whenever I present my case in person
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Reside in Colorado? Want to Hear Me Speak About Colorado Yule Marble?
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