Tuesday, August 10, 2010

The Historic Hudson-Chester Granite Quarry in Becket, Massachusetts

Becket Quarry Trail Map

You don't have to walk far up the trail into the historic Becket granite quarry to come face to face with yesterday. Less than half a mile from the ample parking lot, two abandoned trucks, a dilapidated electrical generator shed, the remnants of a stiff-arm derrick and other rusted ghosts of the granite harvesting trade greet visitors, at the area known as the quarry junction.

Electrical Generator Shed
The setting aside of more than 300 acres of Berkshire forest off Quarry Road in Becket, Mass. - including the old Hudson-Chester quarry - was made possible through the commendable generosity of town residents, whose financial contributions allowed the Becket Land Trust to acquire the plot for public recreation and historic preservation.

Hastening the process and lending urgency to the fund-drive was talk of the possible re-opening of the land for modern quarrying, a development Becket citizens preferred not see come to fruition lest the quiet, small-town character of the peaceful burg be changed.

Electrical Generator Shed (Nathaniel Hemingway Photo)
The Becket Land Trust will celebrate its 20th anniversary next year. According to the Trust's website: "The Becket Land Trust was founded in 1991 by a group of concerned citizens who were interested in maintaining the rural nature of the Town of Becket and of preserving its natural resources."

Perusing (and printing) the detailed area maps and history on the Trust's website is sure to add depth to your experience visiting the Hudson-Chester quarry. A kiosk in the parking area - maintained by the Trust - also provides printed resources to quarry explorers. To learn more about this valuable and necessary organization, and ways you can donate or get involved, head over to: http://www.becketlandtrust.org/.

Quarry Truck #1
Parked in forest pristine but for the vestiges of man, who was the last to walk away from the just-stilled engine, warm, beginning to tick its cooling contractions?

Quarry Truck #1
The Hudson-Chester Quarry was prolific in its produce, rail cars rolling blocks of granite to Hudson, NY and Chester, Mass. to be worked into monuments and tombstones, memorials carved to withstand the ages, cruel eraser of soft recollection. From the middle of the 19th century to the middle of the next, the Becket granite quarry cut stone prized for the quality of its grain.

Quarry Truck #2
Door swung open in invitation: Take her for a spin in your imagination. "Tis a drive into simpler times of hard-won, muscled reward, hearty hot meals and nights at home on porches under Berkshire stars. Unwinding, the Universe: Always unwinding.

Quarry Truck #2
No matter how many turns we make along the way, or how hard we crank the wheel, there is only one direction we are steering: Into the future.

Remnant of Stiff-Armed Derrick
The last slab of granite rolled down the track generations ago, a toppled loading hoist rests on the south side of the quarry junction, a splintered appendage once integral to mining operations. Stiff-armed derricks are also known as stiff-leg derricks, a type of crane used in quarries internationally.

Remnant of Stiff-Armed Derrick
Wood and iron and steel-braided cable return to the earth drippingly slow, layers of leaves and passed forest flora speeding to decomposition in comparison. Chronology intertwined but snowflake different: Not every moment spans the same length of time.

Mobile Power Source
Where once activity whirred and roared, creaked and grumbled with stones heavy as hearts storing wishes unfulfilled, the breathing now are greeted with a silence that even the lazy-stirring August leaves can't break. They wait, these machines, broken and twisted. They wait for the quarrymen, arms strong and tan in the afternoon sun, gone these five long decades past and not likely to return.

Granite Blocks
And the garden of granite surrounds us. In the magical Berkshire hills. In the bustling cities of America. We build our caverns where we don't find them and find them where they lay. Waiting. Cold canvases ready for the chisel. Ready for a human hand to set the names, to tell the dates, to memorialize our being.

As always, thanks for stopping by and take care.

For more information about Becket, railroad development and granite quarrying in the area, visit previous EWM posts, 'The Keystone Arch Bridges Trail: Magic in the Berkshire Mountains' and 'Map: Bird's-eye View of Chester, Mass., 1885.'

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