Historic Photo Reveals a Critical Yule Marble Moment in Time
Knowledge of Colorado Yule Marble’s Prestigious Past may at last be seeping out in regards to the long history and astonishing achievements attained up at the Colorado Yule Marble Quarry.
Few people however are quite as aware of just what was taking place down the road in the tiny Rocky Mountain Town of Marble, home to what was at the time the largest Marble Fabrication Plant of its type in the Entire World.
The photograph above is one of several that appear on here on martincooney.com depicting the internal workings of Yule marble’s quite remarkable marble fabrication plant, and it is this picture that we will return to as we do some history sleuthing regarding a site that still exists to this very day. Gone however is all of the equipment, all of the metal, the tracks, and pretty much everything else. Yet, once you get your bearings, it soon becomes apparent that at one time something very huge indeed took place on this spot, and not too long ago at that, in the scheme of things.
Marble, Colorado, and the World’s largest marble mill at the time.
But before I begin to discuss the details I would like to draw attention to the sheer unadulterated ambition displayed by this remote little quarry, perilously located half way up a near vertical cliff, 9,300 feet above sea-level.
The intrepid early Twentieth Century quarry pioneers did not successfully extract the Yule from its lofty perch merely to send it off to be finished here-and-there in whatever fashion fate would allow, but rather they set about to actually demonstrate the full potential of their new found ‘treasure’. To this end they actually set about to build the gargantuan fabrication plant that we see in the pictures that survive to this day. What better possible way could they make their point? This way they could actually show the whole entire world just what this new marble on the block could do.
Of course, it would have been so easy to simply ship off most all of the blocks to here, there and everywhere, in whatever fashion, and with just a rail yard a rail yard to facilitate the operation. But no, that notion never seems to have been the idea.
The men of the day, back at the dawning of the last century, had other quite lofty and altogether beautiful plans for The Yule. They would show everyone, the whole world, just what this new untried, untested, but brilliantly white and pure marble could do, and in the process put a great many experienced and highly skilled stone carvers and craftsmen to work… right in the middle… of what must have seemed like nowhere.
From where these legions of workers hailed is a little unclear, but they soon became toughened mountain men, for although their accommodations were better than average for the time, life in the small, isolated and mountainous village of Marble, Colorado, was anything but a breeze, at least for half of the year. But never-the-less a huge amount of highly demanding and sometimes massive carvings were created in this remote Rocky Mountain town, in spite of its rugged and isolated location.
So how did all of this come about? Who was involved and what events transpired in the little town of Marble, Colorado, to make them think that they could compete in the already competitive American marble market.
Let’s turn the clock back to 1905 and see what was happening to the quarry and its mill as it enters what I term in my About Colorado Yule Marble page on the subject, as a golden era. For what we find is that monumental change was sweeping the place as one legend suddenly and unexpectedly leaves the arena – the great John Cleveland Osgood, orphaned at 14, to 7th richest man in the country at age 30 – to be replaced by the other Yule legend; that curious ‘man of mystery’ Channing Franklin Meek, after which nothing would be the same.
To say that Mr. Meek – or even Colonel Meek as he was often known – was a man of vision would be the proverbial understatement. And who knows just what would have become of Meek, or the quarry itself for that matter, if he had not had to leap from the path of a “runaway” cart, or something or other, falling many feet onto the jagged hard blocks below, and taking all of four days to die. But that’s for another day. Right now we will go back in time and follow events that lead up to the extraordinarily ambitious results recorded by this snapshot in time picture.
The following passage is taken from my About Colorado Yule Marble article located in the tab menu above.
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1907. The Colorado Yule Marble Company completes the construction of a hydro-electric plant on a plot of land just east of the town of Marble and once the marble arrived in the town of Marble its contents were loaded into the largest mill of its kind in the entire world!
One-thousand-four-hundred-feet-long the track was, and 150 feet wide. At the time of Channing Meek’s stewardship the Yule marble fabrication plant in Marble, Colorado grew to become the largest such facility in the world.
The finished marble was then taken to the massive loading yard, where it was loaded onto the rail cars of the company’s Crystal River & San Juan Railway.
From the massive loading yard it would make its way along the aptly named Crystal River, 28 miles to Carbondale, from where either the Rio Grande or the Midland railway companies would whisk the marble block to any and all parts of the country.
1907. The first major contract undertaken by Osgood’s Integrated Operation was to supply $500,000 worth of marble for the Cuyahoga County Court House in Cleveland, Ohio.
1908 To alleviate the housing shortage caused by hiring more workers for the large Cuyahoga County Court House project, the Colorado Yule Marble Company constructs a settlement of shack and bunkhouses known as Quarry Town, in the proximity to Quarry 1. Although originally intended for men, the 1910 census reveals 9 women and 13 children among the 66 current residents.
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Now, just think how entirely strange and unlikely a story this is: here we have a relatively tiny marble quarry, buried under blankets of snow for almost half the year, perched precariously on the side of a near vertical cliff face, and many, many hundreds of miles from the marble markets of America. How was it ? That this tiny little mountain town tucked away high up in the Colorado Rocky Mountains, this remote little town of just a few hundred people could provide such exquisite marble carvings as those I am about to reveal ?
For tucked away in my photo file I came across a curious piece of evidence that proves for certain that once upon a time, not so long ago, such wonders could exist deep within the mighty Western Slope forests of Colorado. And yet, here it is, see for yourself.
Take a look at the marble balustrade on the far side of the Cuyahoga Country Courthouse staircase. Notice the shape of the ovals and the angle at which the end piece is shown in the photograph. Then look at the picture below and you’ll see that very piece of Colorado Yule Marble as it is actually being carved in the Marble, Colorado, marble mill. Notice too the panel pieces, mantels and the like in the lower half of the picture. Surely this proves that the quality of the work put out by this remarkable little quarry was second to none and of such obvious quality that its future must have seemed quite assured.
For one thing, this truly amazing staircase is a masterpiece of banker masonry, with each individual block having been carved upon a mason’s banker, or workbench, to such a fine degree that when they were assembled on sight, some one thousand miles away, they fit together in such a sublime and sophisticated manner.
Now, if you look closely at the two pictures above you will see clearly that the two balustrade carvings appear identical – especially when you consider that the one in the workshop is still in the process of being carved, with much rough stone still remaining on the curved pillar especially. But I think it displays quite adequately the astonishing high degree of quality masonry put out by this extraordinary little Colorado Rocky Mountain Town of Marble.
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Cuyahoga County Courthouse: The Building that put Colorado Yule Marble on the Map
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Please be sure to visit the amazing little town of Marble the next time you visit central Colorado.
And when you do, please stop by THE KMJ, and we will chat.
111 Aspen Airport Business Center, Suite D.
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thanks for visiting martincooney.com
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