There’s something about abandoned quarries that I find utterly alluring. The steep walls, deep pools of dark water, and abundant vegetation and wildlife enable me to imagine myself standing abreast a beautiful Nordic tarn.
This past weekend proved a wonderful opportunity to visit one of the area quarries, so Daughter No. 4 and I drove to Fairfield County, SC, to the old Anderson Quarry, which produced some of the world’s finest blue granite from 1898 through 1946. She is a talented artist and I knew she’d have an opportunity to take some spectacular photographs.
Once populated by an array of workers, skilled and unskilled, with some from as far away as Scotland and Italy, today the quarry is filled with emerald-green water that’s home to largemouth bass and bream. Hawks and buzzards fly overhead, and innumerable other critters – from lizards and turtles to velvet ants and ridiculous amounts of mosquitos – scuttle, scurry and buzz among 40-ton blocks of granite, cut but never delivered.
The quarry was operated by the Winnsboro Granite Co., which provided building materials for many of the nation’s most elaborate structures, including the Flat-Iron Building in New York and the Land Title and Trust Building in Philadelphia.
“The granite is uniform in color and texture, possesses good working qualities, is susceptible of a high polish, and is admirably adapted to monumental purposes. The product is used chiefly for monumental stock, and is reported to have been so used in twenty-four States,” according to a 1910 US Geological Survey titled “Granites of the Southeastern Atlantic States.”
Interestingly, nearly a quarter century after the quarry closed, blue granite was named South Carolina’s state stone, in 1969.
Today, all that remains of the once prosperous operation is decaying machinery, including a crane derrick that rests against a granite wall, 100-plus feet above the water’s surface, abandoned quarry structures, all built of granite, and an array of rusting pipes, likely used decades ago to pump water from the quarry to allow work to continue unabated.
When my daughter and I made it to the top of the quarry and looked down, we simply stared. The beauty was breathtaking. After a minute or two of silence, I pointed out to her that from where we were to other side, an area spanning at least a quarter mile, perhaps half a mile, was carved out by workmen over the course of nearly 50 years.
We step amid dilapidated detritus, avoiding huge rusting cables with sharp frayed ends, a metal pulley wheel that must weigh at least 500 pounds and old railroad rails. Hundreds of blocks of granite are scattered about the quarry.
The walls of the quarry appear as though a giant comb has been dragged down its sides. The grooves, about a half-inch deep and approximately two inches apart, indicate where workmen drove in a series of long iron rods in order to “split” the stone.
Looking at the walls of Anderson Quarry, one can see where block after block of blue granite was removed, down to at least 100 feet below the water’s surface.
As we were preparing to depart we stopped and made our way through two abandoned shop buildings, to a smaller pool of water, and perched ourselves atop a small outcropping of granite.
Lying on the warm stone, we peered over the edge. Eight feet below small fish swam about, then were chased by a five-pound bass that made my heart skip a beat or two. If we hadn’t been hungry, we probably could have spent the afternoon on that rock, enjoying the solitude and scenery.
(All photos taken by Daughter No. 4 while Dad gawked at big fish.)