History of Sullivan Granite Company
The founder and first president was John B. Sullivan (1845-1911). He started the business with a retail monument shop in Taunton, MA.
In 1907, John B. Sullivan & Son purchased the Crumb Quarry in Westerly (Bradford), RI. John’s son Frank A. Sullivan (1877-1961) moved to Westerly and became general manager of the quarry operation in Bradford. Future purchases included the Newall and Klondike (formally Gourlay Granite Works) Quarries. This local operation became known as Sullivan Granite Company. Frank was president of Sullivan Granite Company from 1911 to February 1952 when he retired. Under his leadership the company improved its facilities. This operation was famous for its tunneling technique.
In 1952 Frank’s son John F. Sullivan (1912-2003) became president and served until 1956. Sadly, the granite industry was in decline and the company was sold at public auction in November 1956. The property has since changed hands several times and is still producing some stone.
Quarrying at the Sullivan Granite Company
Facets of the Quarrying Operation
The Site of the Sullivan Granite Company
The Sullivan Granite Company began operations in Westerly in 1907 with the purchase of fifty acres of the Crumb Quarry site in Bradford. Over the next twelve years the Sullivan Granite Company brought additional quarry properties including the Klondike Quarry and the Newall Quarry. The company then owned about 700 acres including some of the most valuable granite quarries in the nation.
Marketing and Advertising
Extra Fine-grained Blue-White Granite
The marketing phrase of the Sullivan Granite Company
Finding The Stone
All of the Sullivan quarries produced Extra Fine-Grained Blue-White Westerly Granite. This granite like all Westerly blue granite was prized for its very fine grain, uniform color and strength. In addition the Sullivan quarries had very large thick beds of granite; the company became a source for large stones that could not be quarried at most other quarries.
Pictued above next to very large bed is Frank A. Sullivan.
The “Steam” drill–once powered by steam, later by compressed air yet always referred to as the “steam” drill–was a large drill on a stand; it drilled the deep holes about 4 inches apart. The drill mechanism rotated the bit with each stoke so that the drill would wear evenly. Quarrymen would begin the hole with a fairly large diameter drill about a foot long; when they had reached the maximum depth with that equipment, they would change to a longer bit with a slightly smaller diameter. They would continue with increasing long drills with smaller diameters until they reached the bottom of the granite bed. They used increasingly smaller diameters to prevent the drill bit from getting stuck in the hole.
With deep holes drilled close together, quarrymen could control the break very closely. They would use feathers and wedges about 10 inches long all along the line of deep drill holes to exert a steady even pressure to break the stone free.
Once free, the stone could be rolled over. Note the wood used to cushion the stone and prevent breakage.
Plug drills and jackhammers were used to drill holes of less depth. A jackhammer could drill holes up to 20 inches deep along the head; a plug drill could drill holes 6 inches deep usually along the rift. Note the evidence of the deep hole drilling that shows where large pieces of granite have been quarried. Drill bits of varying length are in in the background.
Splitting the Stone
Once the new face is exposed, the plug drill is used to drill holes about 6 inches deep and 6 inches apart. The feathers and wedges are set in place all along the line of drill holes (above). Once in place the quarryman gently hits one wedge after the other, gradually increasing the pressure along the entire line. Eventually the granite cracks apart. Plug drilling results in a less controlled break than deep holing and is appropriate to used only along the rift,the direction of the grain of the granite along which it is most easily split.
Hoisting the stone
The top lift brings the load closer or farther from the mast. The boom tackle lifts the load vertically.
Sullivan Granite Company used boom derricks to remove granite from the quarry hole. A boom derrick may be used to move weight in any direction. The direction of the boom is controlled by a steel cable wrapped around the bullwheel.
Processing the Stone
Gang saw in the processing building cut large chunks of granite into slabs of appropriate widths. Sawing the stone to size produced much less waste than quarrying to size.
Shipping the Stone
Rough cut granite was shipped uncovered, since there was no detail work to protect. Sullivan Granite Company built a spur line into the quarry from the main railroad line. The portion of the railway that crossed Route 91 was temporarily put in place when there was stone to transport to the mainline and then it was removed.