Old quarry offers spectacular view of past, present

Abby's photos 10 5 2014 433

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.

Old machinery at Anderson Quarry.

Old machinery at Anderson Quarry.

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.)

Buzzard circling Anderson Quarry, Fairfield County, SC.

Buzzard circling Anderson Quarry, Fairfield County, SC.

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11 thoughts on “Old quarry offers spectacular view of past, present

  1. I have a similar interest in old quarries though in Ireland they usually have a more destructive presence. The area where I live is called Faol Droim or “Ridge of the Wolf”, a reference to a nearby hill that has been now largely quarried away. Up to the early 20th century it was a tall wooded island in a sea of hedge-bound fields that could be seen from kilometres away. Some of the earliest references to Faol Droim date back to the early Medieval period and archaeologists discovered some incredible stuff there: Neolithic graves, pre-Christian and early Christian settlements, coin hoards, Norman-British fortifications, a once famous windmill, etc.

    Some 4000 years of history was etched into the landscape on and around the hill but virtually nothing is left now beyond a dark and gloomy Holy Well hidden behind a mass of nettles. During Penal Times outlawed masses were held there under the trees that have long since been hewn away along with the ancient burial mound on which the local community would gather, safe from the prying eyes of the British. It is a very sad trip up there, knowing all that was lost, even if one can get beyond the fences and barbed wire.

      • As someone said to me recently, at least the quarry supplied the underpinnings of the runways at Dublin Airport. Even if we had to lose 4000 years of history and what must have been a truly beautiful spot to get it.

        Personally I don’t think it was worth it. But that’s just me 😉

  2. You neglected to mention the quarry is private property, nor did you mention if you received permission to access it.

    • You are correct; it is privately owned and I did not have permission.

      I was told by two local residents that the quarry was privately owned but that if I was respectful, i.e. didn’t litter, cause trouble, etc., the owner wouldn’t give me a hard time.

      I enjoy local history and scenery, and have long wanted to visit the Winnsoboro-area quarries. I figured I wouldn’t have many chances to check out such an interesting site, or to let my daughter experence some real history, nor did I know who owned the site, so, yes, I ventured in without permission.

  3. Sometimes your posts are not in my reader and I just played ‘catch up’ a bit… We have a blue limestone quarry in Delaware, Ohio and the Ohio Wesleyan University used a lot of its blue limestone in their buildings. I am always fascinated by old quarries that have become such beautiful spots of scenery and peacefulness. Our local one has a little too much algae, but the fisherman say the fish are great tasting!

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