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Workers chisel granite blocks in the Beattie Quarry on the northern end of Quarry St. in Fall River.  SOURCE: Courtesy of the Fall River Public Library

Workers chisel granite blocks in the Beattie Quarry on the northern end of Quarry St. in Fall River.
SOURCE: Courtesy of the Fall River Public Library

The City of Fall River’s new waterfront district plaza is set to open next summer as part of the Route 79/Braga Bridge Improvements Project.

You’ll be able to sit on stone benches shaded by canopy trees, surrounded by ornamental lighting and plantings. As you enjoy the breeze sweeping off the water, you may not realize that the granite you’re sitting on is deeply embedded in Fall River’s history.

Almost all of Fall River’s 19th century major buildings were built with granite from one of the City’s own quarries. The textile mills along the Quequechan River, the old Durfee High School, the Fall River Historical Society building, St. Mary’s Cathedral, Fall River Public Library, and the YMCA all used Fall River granite, along with the foundations of countless homes.

The highly regarded granite traveled far outside Fall River’s borders as well. It built mansions in Newport, RI, including the Chateau-sur-Mer, a massive villa considered to be one of the finest examples of Victorian architecture in the country. It’s also found in Fort Adams in Newport and the statehouse in Albany, NY.

Blocks of granite recovered during the excavation of construction sites for the Route 79/Braga Bridge Improvements Project.

Blocks of granite recovered during the excavation of construction sites for the Route 79/Braga Bridge Improvements Project.

What made Fall River granite so sought-after? This granite is superior in its hardness, a quality that distinguishes it from other types of granite. For 50 years beginning in the mid to late 19th century, Fall River’s economy flourished from the production of granite. The largest was Beattie Quarry located on the aptly named Quarry Street. In 1910, the quarry was the length of three football fields, 700 feet wide and 60 feet deep. Blocks as large as 12 feet long and 3 feet wide weighing 18 tons were extracted using derricks to build mills. Smaller blocks used for curbs and paving stones were cut by hand.

Blocks of salvaged granite are implemented into the base of the new wall built along the Quequechan culvert spillway.

Blocks of salvaged granite are implemented into the base of the new wall built along the Quequechan culvert spillway.

Unfortunately, the stone’s very hardness played a role in its demise. Its durability made shaping or polishing the stone a challenge for newer stone-cutting instruments. Fall River granite has not been lost to the history books, but has found a new purpose.

Recycled Fall River granite will be incorporated into the fabric of the City’s new landscape rising along the waterfront as part of MassDOT’s Route 79/Braga Bridge Improvements Project. MassDOT will reuse the granite recovered from the project’s construction sites as seating in the waterfront district plaza. The new “Welcome to Fall River” sign and the base of a retaining wall along the Quequechan culvert spillway will also be constructed of the reclaimed stone. Thanks to its everlasting quality, the granite of Fall River will continue to serve residents and visitors for years to come.

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