A Brief History of Colorado Yule Marble
Colorado Yule Marble may be found only in the Yule Creek Valley, three miles southeast of the secluded Rocky Mountain town of Marble, Colorado, 9,300 feet above sea level. It was discovered in the spring of 1873 by geologist Sylvester Richardson. George Yule was the prospector who “rediscovered” the marble in 1874. In the same year, an unknown person selected several samples of marble and took them to Denver, but for whatever reason, failed to generate much in the way of genuine (moneyed) interest. The marble duly became lost again, only to be rediscovered 10 years later, and once more by accident, or so the story goes.
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What cannot be disputed however was the supreme quality of the Sylvester Richardson/George Yule discovery, for unlike Vermont and Georgia marble, Colorado Yule was formed as a result of contact metamorphism.
Prior to Yule’s discovery, all commercial American marble deposits were formed via mountain range erosion on a purely regional scale, with the heat generated as oceanic and continental tectonic plates grind over and under one another. Meaning that the marbling effect was attained by limestone sinking into the bowels of the Earth and being subsequently ‘baked’ at relatively in relatively sedate conditions, in comparison to those that forged marble born of direct contact with magma.
Average magma temperatures range 700C to 1,300C, or 1,300F to 2,400F, with komatite magmas reaching unfathomable temperatures, perhaps as hot as 1,600C, or 2,912 Fahrenheit. And it these almost unimaginably dramatic conditions that were responsible for Yule marble’s most admired features, the purity of its calcite, and the intrigue surrounding its quality and characteristics.
Both Vermont and Georgia marble are the result of regional metamorphism, and what is known as Tennessee marble is not technically a marble, as it did not ‘metamorph’ from limestone at all.
Whereas such was the incredible heat and pressure exerted by the molten-hot layer of magma, or more specifically rhyolite, upon the sliver of an outcrop of Leadville limestone, as illustrated above, that the intrusions of hot granitic magma recrystallized it into the prized and valued ‘pure’ white marble it is today.
How pure I hear you ask? 99.5 percent pure calcite, that’s how pure. Not only is the purity of Yule quite renowned, but the dramatic nature of its trace amounts of non-calcite intrusions carry with them hints and hues of blue and green, orange, yellows galore, along that serve as mysterious highlights to Yule’s swirling clouds of bluey gray streaks.
The four main groups of intrusions are: quartz, in the form of cooled granite – the signature blueish gray color; Mica, often appearing as thin golden streaks; Feldspar, crystallized from magma, and used widely in the glass and ceramics industries; and Pyrite, with its metallic pale brass-yellow hue, often appearing as bone fide chunks of fools gold. Greens, blues and the odd yellow tints are often glimpsed courtesy of numerous other minor inclusions such as: shene, apatite, rutile, zircon, something called sphalerite, iron, and manganese, which I am informed plays a crucial role in fashioning Yule marble’s famous, and incredibly rare, ‘gold’ veins.
Treasure Mountain Dome they called it, and what a boon it proved to be. Slowly but surely the local economy was realigned around a burgeoning marble industry, while the nearby communities of Crystal and Schofield faded into ghost towns.
1884. The local miners however could never garner sufficient capital to develop their marble quarries, and from 1884 to 1905 a string of quarries came and went… bust, mainly, during which time many began selling their treasured claims. However, as we are to see, fate can be a fickle foe, and many were those who it seems were destined to lose, and lose big, as the crippling cost of quarrying ate up and devoured the profitability of even the smartest, most connected, most expert, and well managed Yule marble quarrying operation.
But worst of all perhaps; what the staggering production costs didn’t devour, warfare of unparalleled scale, was to ultimately kill off. For those involved, the situation must have been excruciatingly frustrating in the extreme. All that work! But not for naught, as we shall see. What these men set in motion paved the way for not only incredible achievements such as the Lincoln Memorial, the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, along with hundreds of magnificent civil and private structures all across America, but also the very real achievement of having established Colorado Yule Marble as the excellent working marble quarry that it is to this day.
1891. Colorado Marble and Mining was formed by Steven King with capital stock worth over a million dollars. By 1909 the lease was being transferred to Monarch Marble, and by 1926 none other than the Mormon church itself had stepped in to run things under the name Colorado White Marble. It was all over by 1926 however, as the company finally went out of business. Further attempts to breath life into the once massive marble quarrying project were staged in 1937, but alas to no avail.
Founder of the Colorado Fuel & Iron Company, with influence stretching far and wide across the American west, John Cleveland Osgood learned the coal business from the bottom rung. Born in Brooklyn, New York in 1851, he found himself orphaned by age 14. Nevertheless he pushed himself to achieve greatness from the off. ‘Undisputed Fuel King of the West’ they called him. By attending night classes at the Peter Cooper Institute in New York, he was subsequently able to take a position with the Union Mining Company of Iowa. And in no time at all, the young firebrand has not only risen through the city’s banking industry like a star – but had quietly and confidently gained himself control of the White Breast Mining Company. He now supplied however much coal he could get his hand on to the coal hungry Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Railroad. John C Osborn was 30 years old when he set out west to hunt for more coal deposits. Legend has it that he personally inspected every coal mine in Colorado. But by 1892 he had purchased a quite astonishing 5,622 acres of coal land, and it was at this point that he found himself bitten by the Colorado Yule Marble bug. For as he marshaled his holdings in and around the Crystal River Valley he gradually began to take an interest in the activities of the quarry, which was just up the road from his coke ovens, three miles up a dirt road from the remote Rocky Mountain town of Marble, Colorado. After merging his Colorado Fuel Company with the Colorado Coal & Iron Company, he formed the Colorado Fuel and Iron Company, with himself as president, naturally. Now, with over 800 coke ovens, 14 commercial mining and milling operations, and 15,000 strong workforce, John C Osgood found himself to be the largest employer in the state of Colorado, with an empire stretching into Wyoming and New Mexico.
1892. John C. Osgood forms the Crystal Land and Development Company, flinging himself into the task of quarrying that same year by means of an open-pit on the west side of Yule Creek. He also found time to preside over the huge coal and coke operations in nearby Redstone in his role as Colorado Fuel and Iron president. By the late 1890s he had formed the Yule Creek White Marble Company, and by 1905 the energetic Mr. Osborn had reorganized the company as Redstone Marble. Through little fault of his own however, as we shall see, the doors were to close for ever on September 5, 1917, as the madness of World War One knocked the skids under whatever plans he had in mind for the business.
1893. Dr. R.H. Kline formed the Marble City Quarrying Company on September 29. By February 28, 1905 it had sold to Channing Meek and was out of business and ‘dissolved’.
1895. Despite a growing interest in Yule Marble generated by glowing test results newly arrived from London, not to mention the extraordinary commercial opportunities afforded by both the 1890 St Louis Exposition, and the Chicago Exposition of 1893, the struggle for profitability, weighted down by huge start up costs, enormous running costs, along with the staggering realities of quarrying marble at 9,300 feet – a thousand miles from nowhere – those involved continued to struggle.
1895. Occasionally a juicy, high profile and profitable project would come along, such as that of John Osgood obtaining a major contract to supply 140,000 cubic feet of marble for the new state capitol in Denver, Colorado. However, after this initial success neither Osgood nor his competitors were able to find new sufficiently profitable new markets, and all Yule marble quarries continuously struggled to make ends meet.
The Osgood operation was well financed, but even he was afflicted by the problems associated with developing and operating a marble quarry deep within the daunting terrain of the Yule Creek Valley. Also the lack of transportation severely added to the difficulties. Taken together, these factors resulted in unsustainable operating costs that simply could not be covered by marble revenue.
The problem lay in the inescapable fact that the same dramatic geological forces that created such magnificent marble also created the host of costly and complex problems involved in the quarrying of the stone. Quarrying in this high altitude environment, with steep slopes, deep snow, and snow-mud slides, is so expensive that advances in technology were not able to overcome the challenges. These factors limited the periods of operation and governed the amount of marble that could be brought down from the quarry.
1904, April 12. The Strauss brothers launch the Crystal River Marble Company in order to quarry Treasure Mountain on the east side of Yule Creek. These industrial lads also completed their Treasury Mountain Railroad in August of 1910. Sadly their remarkable efforts were ultimately futile, as little in the way of commercial grade marble was actually quarried, they found themselves with no major contracts whatever, and by 1917 were unceremoniously declared bankrupt. Nineteen-Seventeen, again. Who knows just what the dynamic John C. Osgood, or the Straus Brothers, and many more I am sure, could have, would have achieved, if it had not have been for that damned pointless war.
1904. John C. Osgood finds himself pressed for cash. Over stretched, over extended, and I’m sure slightly bemused by the staggering costs of quarrying marble destined for markets across the country; complications concerning his coal empire; and the little matter of his deciding to build his dream castle, Cleveholm, now known as Redstone Castle (as opposed to Osgood Castle?). he was beginning to find himself, for the first time in his young life, in a financial bind. ‘Stretched’ he was. Way over stretched in fact. Turning to two of his closest companions and business associates, he proposes that they help him financially with a little friendly loan.
John D. Rockefeller and Jay Gould however had another solution in mind however, and promptly offered him a job. THAT however was NEVER going to happen, not to the great John C. Osgood, King of Coal, who promptly informed them that in no way would he work for anyone else. And with that walked out of the door, and away from a vast financial empire, one that he himself had painstakingly put together piece by piece, year after year. Gone. He did however hold full control of Victor American Fuel, a very very successful and profitable company with holding across Colorado, and so he was never – what you might say – tight for money. No, indeed quite the opposite. John C Osgood, this orphan from Brooklyn, New York, in 1851, was to enjoy, a long and I am sure happy life. At 75 years old he passed away on January 4, 1926, at his beloved castle of a home in the Rockies.
1905. Channing Meek is able to purchase the entire marble deposits of the Marble City Quarry Company on February 28, only to turn around and sell it on to the Colorado Yule Marble Company on April 11th of the same year, after which he made himself CYMC president.
At long last it seemed that the promise induced by twenty years of quarrying Yule marble, for a time at least, was about to be realized, and son for a time it was.
Coinciding as it did with a nationwide ‘marble boom’, the Colorado Yule Marble Company’s arrival upon the scene was to signal a boom that was to deliver upon high profile contracts combining over one million early nineteen hundred dollars.
All was thrown into disarray however when the unfortunate Mr. Meek was killed after being struck by, and/or leaping to avoid a runaway load of marble – which sounds a bit odd to me as very I could find very few accounts of fatalities amongst his actual quarry workers. It would seem careless in the extreme for these otherwise thorough and professional marble quarriors to be so sloppy as to let events transpire so as they lead to the needless death of their boss. But there you go, I’ll leave it for you to calculate the odds of such a tragedy happening by chance, and chance alone.
By many, if not all accounts, the tragic loss of what had seemed for a moment to be the perfect man for the job, and perhaps the only personality anywhere near the scene who could match the drive, motivation, ambition, connections and desire of his predecessor John Cleveland Osgood, also spelled the beginning of the end for Yule Marble, the town of Marble, and all that Colorado’s state rock could have become had the human whirlwind that was Channing F. Meek lived long enough to see his incredible ambitions for Yule Marble brought about. Alas by 1912 Mr. Meek was dead and regardless of the many valid achievements attained by Colorado Yule Marble, so it was that from this point on, the quarry, the mill, the town, the railroads, the whole massive infrastructure, was to gradually dissolve into a slow and unstoppable decay.
1905. The Colorado Yule Marble Quarry formed part of an incredibly well organized and ambitious plan that was to become known as the ‘Integrated Operation’. With visionary foresight the idea was to integrate all aspects of the quarry, transport, sorting, cutting and shipping under the governance of a single system. Showing supreme skill, confidence and care, these intrepid marble pioneers fashioned a system that took the marble out of the quarry via truly massive hoists, and placed them delicately upon a four mile standard gauge electric railway for a precarious descent of 1,300 feet, with grades in places of up to 54 percent.
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.
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 it was, and 150 feet wide, all under one long roof. 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 there 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. During the winter months the people of Quarry Town could be seen skiing down to the road three miles to the town of Marble. Later they would return by taking a tow from the electric tram as it made its way back up to the quarry. Which surely qualifies the Colorado Yule Marble quarry road as Colorado’s very first ski lift.
1908. The four horse wagon teams, used to town the marble three miles down the road to the mill are replaced by a 110-horsepower steam driven tractor previously used to haul logs.
1908. Marble runs dry – not of water, but worse than that. Voters, with heavy backing from the company, duly brought in alcohol prohibition. Instantly, the bootleggers were busy at work. Interestingly however was the fact that, while prohibition left workers travelling 12 miles down the road to Redstone to whet their whistle on their favorite tipple, the law only forbade the purchase of moonshine, not the consumption, and so it’s a little difficult to see just exactly what was achieved, in hind sight.
1909. Daily wages of $5 to $8 per day, with no overtime, provoke a strike lasting 3 months. From August 4, to November 2, struck for an 8-hour day, and time-and-a-half for overtime. By September only 20 men were still on the books. With heavy support from the public, and another brutal winter on the way, the Colorado Yule Marble Company began accepting employees back the moment the strike was called off, and within a week the quarry was back in business.
1910. The government census records 57 men worked at the unified quarry, of which 4 were Italian born, 2 were German, 1 was Austrian, and 50 were American. The marble mill employed 291 people, of which 110 were American, with the majority, 120, born in Italy. Meanwhile across the valley, the town of Marble registered 481 residents, 326 of whom (66%), were working in the marble industry.
1910. A giant 50 ton hoist is built in order to lower huge single blocks of marble 225 feet down to a new loading station. Here they were loaded onto a flatcar pulled by an electric tram designed specifically for the purpose by General Electric. Electricity for the three mile standard gauge track was derived from the CYMC built hydro-electric plant.
1911. Marble saws are used to cut at a rate of around 2 inches an hour. In 2018 a modern wire or chain saw is able to cut more than 50 inches per hour, or twenty-five times faster.
1912, through 1914. The Town of Marble, Colorado, hits its peak population of 1,500 residents. During these years the booming town could boast a movie theater, three hotels, 9 stables, 5 ice houses, and an ice cream parlor.
1914. A series of tunnels connects the three working caverns, and as they continued to work each one, eventually they wore down the walls and joined into one vast hall.
1914 to June 1916. Despite its higher cost, and via a supremely competitive selection process, but with architect Henry Bacon’s staunch backing, Yule is chosen over three samples from Georgia (Cherokee, Southern and Amicalola), and one from Vermont (Dorset White), to supply the marble for the Lincoln Memorial. According to Bacon its “whiteness and delicate veining” earned it a place “above any white building marble in appearance that I have seen here or abroad”. Never-the-less there were more than a few grumbles from the other, more established east coast rivals, and consequently the four irate losing quarries were soon holding Yule marble’s proverbial feet to the fire, to such an extent that the US Army Engineer Office in charge of Public Grounds, and overseer of the entire Lincoln Memorial project, was brought in to determine Yule marble’s quality, durability, and even the quarry’s ability to quarry the huge amounts of material within the time prescribed. George Perkins Merrill was immediately dispatched to far off Colorado in order to asses the situation, and (surprise surprise) once more Colorado Yule Marble came through the ordeal with flying colors. After his visit Merrill was to declare that this strange, remote, and obscure little quarry did indeed meet any and all of the preordained requirements. Still, all was not well with Secretary of War Lindsey Garrison. Indeed so miffed was he that, even in the face of test after test, visits galore, he called for – nay demanded – that none other than the the United States Commission of Fine Arts get in upon the act, and soon the test weary samples were being scrutinized for one last time. Within five days he received his reply. The game was up. Colorado Yule Marble was supremely “fit pre-eminently for a structure of the character of the Lincoln Memorial”.
1914. March 14. Colorado Yule Marble at last is awarded the contract to supply the Lincoln Memorial with its signature white marble. At $1,080,000 this was by far the largest, most expensive, and most demanding Yule marble project to date. With the first shipment of marble leaving Quarry 3 on May 25, 1914, and the final delivery made on June 16, 1916, and even with such high standards resulting in heavy rejection rates, the company still managed to complete their order a full five months ahead of schedule. Company president J. F. Manning was to calculate that they had need to remove 80,000 square feet of marble in order to yield 15,000 square feet of acceptable finished product, each month. On occasion this figure would dip, and at times, according to Manning, it was not unusual for less than 10 percent of the marble quarried from the site to be shipped to the Lincoln Memorial site. Marble for the 38 columns, each comprising 11 drums and a top piece, with each of the 418 drums requiring 18 multiple man hours to fashion, were delivered to Shop 4. Marble for projects other than the columns were taken to Shop 3, where wire saws operated by 30 gangs of men cut nothing but Lincoln Memorial marble around the clock.
1916 BUST! Barely one month after the final shipment of marble for the Lincoln Memorial the Colorado Yule Marble Company went into receivership in June, and ceased all operation on April 15, 1917. The swift, wholesale collapse was triggered by many factors, but the loss of skilled Italians, who returned to their native country to fight in World War One, along with a sudden and dramatic decline in demand for marble once America joined the fray, brought the company to its knees. However, in all likelihood, the final blow came about via the massive debt incurred in the startlingly ambitious ‘Integrated Operation’, as it was launched, back in 1905.
1918. The last bank, the last newspaper, and the last marble train, leave the Marble, never to return.
1920. The government census reveals just 50 people to be living in the town of Marble.
1921. By April the quarry was at last out of bankruptcy, but a full year was to elapse before work was to resume, although much reduced, and on a far smaller scale than prior to the disastrous 1917 bust.
1922. Quarrying activities resume, with divided ownership. The rather confusingly named Carrara Company took possession of the quarry and tram line, whilst the Yule Marble of Colorado Company owned the railroad from Marble to Carbondale, along with the 1,400 foot long marble mill; the world’s largest of its kind. Although these two entirely separate companies operated as fully independent organizations, they effectively worked together as one single cohesive unit.
1924. So seamless was the Carrara Company/Yule Marble of Colorado Company collaboration that unofficial partnership was to merge on April 24, into the Consolidated Yule Marble Company.
1928. After several changes in the Consolidated Yule Marble Company’s ownership, the Vermont Marble Company took over the combined operation in November. Within one month the V.M.C. had formed Yule Colorado Company. The Y.C.C was to run to run the quarry, mill, tram and train operation for 13 years, until the outbreak of World War Two stepped in, and finished the quarry off, once again! Unlike the first time, with World War One, World War Two was to put the quarry out of business – and flooded, no less – for four long decades.
1930. The Vermont Marble Company’s Colorado Yule Marble is selected for the Tomb of The Unknowns – or, “Tomb of the Unknown Warrior”, as I have always heard it described. The gigantic project was quarried in 7 pieces of marble, comprising 4 layers; plinth, base, die, and cap.
1931. A crew of 75 men worked full time for a whole year to successfully remove a 56 ton block for the Tomb of The Unknown’s massive die. Once relieved from the marble quarry face, the “world’s biggest sawn block of marble” took four days just to coax down 3 miles down to the mill. So unprecedentedly huge was this block that the Vermont Marble Company was forced to ship a special hoist in order to simply lift it out of the quarry and onto the rail car. Unfortunately however this most prestigious of commissions was to run into a myriad of setbacks from the very off, for in addition to the aforementioned problems sourcing such massive blocks of pure white marble, even bigger headaches were to plague the project once the installation process got under way. A large and entirely visible crack began to make its prominent way along and through the die. Disaster. Unfortunately the topic rages to this very day: to replace or repair the huge block or replace, and last I heard, divisions regarding which course of action to take are as wide as ever. There is even a replacement piece standing on a rail car, donated freely by a private citizen, ready and waiting to be carved and installed at no charge to anyone, the block already exists. So, we’ll see. Personally I think that the cracks are ugly and detract from the gravitas of the situation. If we can – and we can – I say that in order to respect and maintain the dignity of the monument it is time to replace the compromised stone.
1941. The town of Marble, Colorado, suffers a huge flood, and as a consequence sees its population shrink to just 30 hardy souls.
1942. BUST again! The United States enters World War Two as the world’s largest marble mill is dismantled, and the railroad tracks torn up.
1945. World War Two is over, but the town Marble of endures another catastrophic flood, just 4 years after the last one. At one point the town’s population dipped to just one; Theresa Herman, the school teacher.
1956. The town of Marble’s population shows 26 registered voters.
1986. Steps are taken to reopen the Yule marble quarry, for the third time. And in true Yule marble quarry tradition following in the footsteps of John C. Osgood and Channing F. Meek, this time around it came about via the efforts of Denver oilman Stacy Dunn.
1989. Disaster strikes Yule marble, yet again, as the quarries’ new owner, Stacy Dunn, follows a similar fate to that of Channing Meek, back in 1912. But whereas Meek died jumping to avoid a “runaway” train, Stacy Dunn was to die in what is described as an “automobile accident”. As with the original Colorado-Yule Marble Company 8 decades prior, their fates were combined when the new C.Y.M.C. was declared bankrupt in 1997. “Stacy Dunn, 35, of Evergreen, Colo., died Thursday, April 27, 1989, at Buena Vista, Colo., of injuries sustained in an automobile accident“. A curse, coincidence or what? Extreme bad luck at the very least, I would say.
1997. The newly bankrupt Colorado Yule Marble Companies assets are acquired by Bath Stone of England – the very company that gave me work immediately upon gaining the Banker Masonry NVQ Level 2 qualifications that I attained at the City of Bath College. An odd coincidence, I know, and now that I know this my mind goes back to a number of conversations that I had over there that now, with this new found information, casts my time there in an entirely new light, but never-the-less, I digress. Bath Stone held possession of the quarry for two years, before selling it on to Rex Loseby of Sierra Minerals.
1999. Whatever the profit, motivation, or degree of success achieved by Bath Stone of England regarding keeping the operation at least a ‘going concern’, little seems to have materialized in terms of actual marble quarrying. Just two years on they are selling the quarry to Sierra Minerals, who are these days often these days cited as “reopening” the quarry . The company is run by Rex Loesby, who had previous pulled out of his involvement with the earlier attempt by the Colorado Yule Marble Companies’ attempt to revive the quarry. This time however he holds what I am sure he thought was a sustainable plan, for Loesby had acquired the contract to supply none other than the Veterans Administration with marble for the national cemetery headstones. is to run the quarry for 5 years, until ownership passes on to Canadian company, Polycor.
2004. Rex Loseby’s Sierra Minerals sells the quarry to Quebec based company Polycor, under the name Colorado Stone Quarries Incorporated, with much of the marble production exported to Italy. They run the operation until the crash of ’08, from whence the recession put the kibosh on any and all plans, dreams and schemes that Loseby had for his quarry. World Wars, recessions, deadly ‘accidents’, and scandalous betrayals: the unfortunate Colorado has born the brunt of them all. Once again, the aging quarry suffers the indignity of closure. This time it was the greatest economic crisis to hit the world since in 24 hour cable news history. Suffering the same turmoil, disappointment and despair that sideswiped many of us during this most desperate period, the company limped on until the grim facts of reality force operations to cease, by December 2009 Polycor had shuttered Yule marble all Yule marble operations; the lights were out, and the jobs gone.
2010. Fortunately for everyone with an appreciation for Colorado’s state rock and America’s finest white marble, at the point when all seemed doom and gloom, and when quarry owners were coming and going with the frequency of European football managers, up steps Mr. Enrico Luciani of Carrara, Italy., who takes possession of the quarry in October, 2010. Polycor however still retains the purchasing rights to the North American market, while the industrious Mr. Luciani I’m sure will make use of his extensive contacts in Carrara, Italy, and the rest of Europe, to ensure that such exquisite, and now exquisitely quarried, top quality marble will reach the market that it truly deserves.
2011. Under the seasoned, experienced, and watchful eye of new owner Enrico Luciani, on behalf of the RED Graniti partnership, Colorado Yule Marble is not only reopened for business, but relaunched as a concept, and tied to quarrying concepts forged and developed over many centuries in and around his home town of Carrara, Italy. At long last, and for the first time in over a 125 years of marble quarrying endeavor, a wealth of experience, along with direct line to the billions of dollars garnered by the international marble industry, places Colorado Yule Marble firmly within the grasp of architects and designers the world around. And so it was that in January of 2011 Mr. Luciani restarts the marble quarrying operations, just three months after his taking possession. However, as we shall see, all similarities between previous changes in Yule marble quarry ownership, management, methods and practices to this point bear little resemblance to the arrival of Mr. Enrico Luciani of Carrara, a man whom (if I am not greatly mistaken) retains all the necessary requirements to follow, and build upon, the incredible efforts of John C. Osgood and Channing Meek, in at last making Colorado Yule Marble a familiar name in interior design, both commercial and residential, and of course sculpture the world around.
2011. Coincidence dictates that at the moment Mr. Enrico Luciani of Carrara, Italy, was taking the reigns at the Yule marble quarry, I, Martin Cooney of Preston, England, was busy at work, just 23 miles distant (as the eagle flies) splitting and carving a well-seasoned ten ton slab of the Yule marble, at some point drilled, wire cut, then ekeed out of the quarry by his predecessors many, many years prior. Little did I realize at the time that, in my rendering an unapproachable and slightly in-the-way, slab of left over marble, I would not only create The Maiden Collection, but in doing so develop and establish the revolutionary light weight concept of my signature Curvilinear Marble Sculpture. Neither did I think for a second the degree to which I myself was about to join a long list of those bitten by the Colorado Yule Marble bug. Whether Mr. Luciani feels that he was bitten by the bug too – or if, unlike myself, he has known all along of Yule’s startling properties, is not yet on record. But what I will say is that he shows an incredible passion for the subject, and brings with him the all-important knowledge and experience that a modern world class marble quarrying operation demands.
2012. Under Enrico Luciani’s careful management work begins to drive an new portal into the seam of unique white marble at the newly formed Colorado Stone Quarries Incorporated quarry. They then call in the Aspen Times for a personal interview with Mr Luciani (link email@example.com). In the article Mr. Luciani’s fervent confidence, assurance, optimism and excitement, is on full display. And apparently his boundless enthusiasm has proven effective: this is “the first new portal into the seam in more than 100 years.” boasts the quarry’s administrative manager, Kimberly Perrin, who goes on to inform the paper that “this will bring us 65 to 100 years of production”. “This is the future of the quarry”, reveals Enrico Locati Luciani, indicating the new Fantini cutting machine that he had recently purchased at a cost of $700,000. “We know the material is, ah, very nice” he said.
“We love artists”, (music to my ears) “We will always sell to artists” announces quarry admin manager Kimberly Perrin, even though less than one percent of all finished marble is bought by sculptors. “I have lots of ideas for this quarry” confides Mr. Luciani, one idea is to create a fabrication and finishing plant as close to the quarry as possible, ideally in or around the Interstate town of Rifle, Colorado, which in turn will greatly reduce current transportation costs, whereby the huge quarry blocks are shipped, at great expense, to be worked in Italian marble shops. Furthermore a handsome, efficient and prominent marble operation, right alongside one of the busiest and most scenic interstate highways in the entire county, could prove and interesting and attractive tourist center, and thereby greatly assist in raising the profile of this incredible natural material, this Colorado State Rock, this amazing and amazingly rare, Colorado Yule Marble.
The Marble from Marble
In the 12 months between September 2011 and September 2012 it was my great pleasure to discover the fascinating properties present within America’s premium white marble as I split and carved a single slab into the 41 sculptures of The Maiden Collection. This huge, roughly ten ton slab of Colorado Yule Marble, quarried many years ago and abandoned to the elements, laid undisturbed in the corner of a gravel-strewn parking lot, and when it was delivered to my Woody Creek studio I had not the slightest idea what to do with it. For well over two years the monstrous slab sat in my yard and proved the perfect repose for a quick afternoon nap, or conversely a long leisurely gaze at the stars. But when the autumn of 2011 began to take on the familiar appearance of early winter I felt it was time for action before we were again blanketed in a thick layer of snow.
So, with no particular plan or idea in mind I set about breaking the slab into manageable ‘bite-sized’ chunks using the plug and feather technique. I had relied upon many times when shaping larger projects, such as entrance signs and the like, but this ‘slab’ was altogether a different kettle of fish – for one thing it was almost 2 feet thick. I had some experience working with Yule Marble but this was an altogether different proposition, and on a scale I had never previously tackled. To cut a long story short, the first few weeks proved a very steep learning curve. The marble seemed to possess a will of its own, and from this uniform rectangular slab popped strangely consistent trapezoid blocks. This oddly willful marble block had simply refused to comply with my fanciful plans, and revealed a seemingly elaborate plan of its own.
It took several weeks before I finally realized just what I had done: by splitting, rather than cutting into the slab with a saw, I had unleashed forces that had been forged by the geological history of the slab itself, forces that had been at play for well over 30 million years. Gradually I discovered how to interpret and encompass this unanticipated dramatic element within the stone. And as the new Maiden Collection began to slowly emerge, one-after-another, in a continued procession, I was able to take the knowledge gained from each successive carving and apply it to the next; until Work in Progress, the Maiden Collection’s 41st carving announced that the slab was at last exhausted (and perhaps if I am truthful, by this time so was I )… and my inaugural marble collection ‘complete’.
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To See My Colorado Yule Marble Sculpture For Yourself
Please Visit THE KMJ
KMJ COONEY SCULPTURE GALLERY
111 AABC Suite D, Aspen, Colorado
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A Brief History of Colorado Yule Marble
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