ble quarry in the country opened in Dorset, Vermont, in 1785, and the area’s quarries supplied wealthy seaboard towns like
Boston with product for decorative architectural details, hearths, and stairs.
However, it was the sense of the stone’s
purity and connection to the ancient civilizations of Greece and Rome that transformed New England’s cemeteries. For
nearly two centuries, since the no-fun Puritans arrived, gravestones exhibited a certain grimness, in keeping with the Calvinist
view of life and what came after it. Winged
skulls, crossed bones, empty hourglasses,
and phrases such as “Vive memor loethi”
(Live mindful of death) adorned dark slate
headstones, keeping the graveyard a solemn reminder of what was to come. By the
early 1800s — and especially with the rise
of garden cemeteries like Mount Auburn in
Cambridge, Massachusetts, which opened
in 1831 — a new, more humanistic approach
had emerged. As Mary Baker Eddy, the
founder of Christian Science and a later
denizen of Mount Auburn (she was buried there in 1910), put it, “The dismal gray
stones of churchyards have crumbled into
decay, as our ideas of Life have grown more
spiritual; and in place of ‘bat and owl on the
bending stones, are wreaths of immortelles,
and white fingers pointing upward.’” Marble was in, and New England quarries were
happy to meet demand for cemetery monuments and statuary.
One of them was the quarry at, and
eventually inside, Dorset Mountain in
Danby, Vermont. Started in 1842, it’s now
the largest underground marble quarry in
the world, running 1½ miles into the mountain and, since 2002, containing a full-scale
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