Scenes from the Stony Creek (CT.) Quarry: A polished slab, the entrance and some carved stone for the garden.
My friend Barbara’s kitchen remodel starts this week, so I’ll be living vicariously through her for the next month or so.
I had my kitchen remodeled seven years ago when The Curmudgeon declared he could no longer clean counters with Mexican tiles and gray grout that never looked clean. We originally planned to replace the countertops, but it seemed silly when the rest of our ’80s kitchen was a disaster.
I don’t know what the design goals were in the late ’80s, but food storage wasn’t a priority. We never had enough room for anything. So we did a complete remodel, expanding the island, creating the coveted “triangle” of the sink, stove/oven and refrigerator, and improving the lighting.
I love the finished product because it’s prettier and more functional than our old kitchen. But I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a little jealous of Barbara’s Big Fat Kitchen Remodel. It’s fun and exciting to remodel, if you can get past the inconvenience and annoyance of contractors in your house, and the actual work that needs to be done.
So I’ve decided to closely follow Barbara’s kitchen project, hoping I can piggyback on the excitement while avoiding the pitfalls of home improvement projects. I recently weighed in on the discussion of countertops, which I found one of the most confounding aspects of my own remodel.
I chose a dark green granite streaked with white called Ocean, mainly because it reminded me of the Atlantic Ocean, specifically off Cape Cod. This is how some women (and I suppose men) make decisions. When all is said and done, we pick things for sentimental reasons, ignoring whether they’re functional or costly.
When the woman from the granite place called to tell me that Ocean was actually a lot more expensive than originally quoted, I told her I was proceeding as planned. “I’m not looking at any more granite,” I said. “I’ll just get cheaper appliances.”
There are times in life when you can’t go back to square one, to begin again as the yogis say. Looking at slabs of granite is one of those times. It took me so long to pick out Ocean that I couldn’t imagine starting the process again. It was easier to compromise on the appliances, though I wish I had sprung for a better refrigerator. The one I bought began falling apart after about three years.
I admire decisive people, but this has never been one of my strengths. I’m the kind of person who will find a dress on my first outing – and then continue to scour stores in hopes of finding a better one. I may like something, but must convince myself that it’s the right way to go. I visited about six kitchens with cherry cabinets before finally deciding I wanted cherry.
I’m not sure what my problem is, but I think I’m afraid to make mistakes on big ticket items. Well, make that anything. I guess I’m a little paralyzed. Actually, it’s amazing anything ever gets done around here.
Barbara is more decisive, but still has not picked out her countertops. I asked if she had considered Stony Creek granite, a pink and gray stone mined the next town over in Branford, CT. This is not just any granite. Stony Creek granite is known worldwide, mainly because it forms the base of the Statue of Liberty. It’s also part of other famous landmarks, including the Smithsonian and Grand Central Station.
“Isn’t that pink?” Barbara asked. “Because I’m getting white countertops.” A minor detail.
Yes, it’s pink, but it’s gray too. And those two colors are hot right now, making Stony Creek granite a top choice among designers and architects. A lot of people around here use Stony Creek granite in their homes because it’s a symbol of the Connecticut shoreline. A lot of New Yorkers use it because it’s part of the bedrock of the city.
I know this because I visited the quarry. I’ve been wanting to do this since gazing at the Statue of Liberty during my return from Staten Island during the 5-Boro Bike Tour last month. I had an hour to kill, and it was either the quarry or Walmart. The quarry won.
I was greeted by a lovely receptionist named Stacey, who told me she just began roping off the entrance last week because people were just driving in, which isn’t the smartest thing to do when blasting is going on.
It’s hard to believe people think they can sightsee at an active quarry, but it takes all kinds. So the rope is up and people have to stop and visit Stacey in her construction trailer to state their business, which is probably best for everyone.
Stacey understands the interest in the quarry, which has been around since 1858. A couple of times a year, the quarry opens for public tours. But you just can’t go in and take a personal tour on a whim. There are rules to follow, protocols to protect us from ourselves.
I got a quick look at the perimeter of the quarry, with its mountains of sand and all manner of rocks, stones, slabs and pavers. A few huge polished slabs sat near the entrance, buffed and glistening in the sun. Hand-carved benches, garden troughs and planters sat a few feet away, showing the range of uses of the granite dating back 225 to 650 million years.
Stacey said many people come to the quarry to see the place where the stone was harvested for the Statue of Liberty and other famous landmarks. But she said the quarry also has folklore status for some locals, who have grown up hearing stories of grandpa “swimming down at the quarry.”
Stacey rolled her eyes at that notion, noting no swimming has ever taken place at the current quarry. For the record, the stone mined for the Statue of Liberty was mined nearby, but not at the current quarry site.
What I love most about the quarry is it’s a throwback in time, a deep connection to the past that has changed little over the past 160 years. Times may have changed, but workers are still mining the granite. It’s more than pink and gray rock – it’s a beautiful byproduct of nature, a gift from our dear Mother Earth.
I guess that explains all these spur of the moment visits. Sometimes, you want to connect with the past and your deeper self. Sometimes, you need to visit the quarry instead of another big box store.
Stacey allowed me to take a few photos of the slabs, just in case Barbara is interested. I know she isn’t, but it’s nice to dream. And I’m kicking myself a little for not considering Stony Creek granite in my own kitchen. It would have been so pretty.
As I drove away, I noticed large boulders and pieces of granite on people’s property – symbols of their reverence and connection to the land. Some of it was a lot more attractive than others – honestly, some people have no design sense. But I get it. It’s a part of our history, a symbol of the freedom and fresh start so many of our ancestors sought coming to the United States.
I stopped at a parking area down the road from the quarry where I often hike with my dog. I got out of the car and grabbed five large rocks of Stony Creek granite, and placed them in my front garden. I’m considering a granite planter, maybe even a trough if I can cajole the Curmudgeon into springing for one (highly unlikely).
But for now, the rocks will do. No one who walks by may notice them, but I know they’re there – a permanent link to this land and place. I have no idea why I suddenly wanted them, but I did. Maybe it was a primitive urge or a need to feel grounded. All I know is they’re there, my own little connection to this place. Right now, that’s enough.
For more on the history of the quarry, visit http://stonycreekquarry.com/history/.