The 30th Column and the Milford Granite Industry
Lovejoy Granite Quarry - Milford NH - This quarry was located in South Milford approximately along the south side of Armory Road and was originally started by Nathan Merrill (Nathan was the son of Asa Merrill who was the first resident born in Milford after its incorporation in 1794). Nathan worked this quarry for several years and then it was abandoned. It was sold in 1894 to Charles W. Stevens of Nashua and Samuel Lovejoy of Milford. By 1903 Mr. Lovejoy had become sole owner of the quarry. It was incorporated as the Lovejoy Granite Company by Samuel Lovejoy, B. A. Pease, R. J. Waters and C. H. Burke. The Lovejoy Quarry prospered for many years employing 150 workers and produced 800 carloads of building stone per year - stone used for monuments, curbing and paving block.
The granite company had erected the largest derrick not only in town, but also in New England, in 1907 when it built a mast 111 feet high with a boom 90 feet long made of Oregon pine to lift granite up from the quarry. In 1908 the company was called on to quarry granite for the US Treasury Building in Washington DC. They used this derrick for the work of lifting 31 pieces of granite 31 feet 8 inches by 4 feet 6 inches in size and weighing ninety tons each. The granite was then transported to Worcester, MA for cutting. The cost of these 31 columns was $23,000 each. We know the Treasury Building has 30 columns, why then were 31 cut? Let's find out. Here begins our story.
The east wing of the Treasury Building had been built during the Jackson administration (1829-1837). It had 30 beautiful buff colored sandstone columns on the east front of the building. They had stood for 80 years and had been expected to stand for another 80. A 1909 Washington DC newspaper clipping states, "Though they looked good on the outside, they were rotting within. High above the street they looked substantial but the supervising architect found them to have cracks and seams. The cracks were filled up with cement and the sandstone was cleaned and crated with a patent preparation that was supposed to prevent further flaking and cracking. However, treasury officials reported that one day a piece fell from one of the columns and nearly killed a man passing along the sidewalk below." It was suggested that the entire east front of the building have its columns replaced with granite. In 1907 an appropriation of $360,000 was submitted to Congress and eventually it was passed.
A contract was entered into with the Edwin Gilbert & Co of Philadelphia to do the work for $298,000. Shortly after, but before the work was begun, the contractors failed and its affairs were taken over by receivers. The contract was later modified, and the amount increased to $325,000 due to some additional work being required. The receivers of the Gilbert & Co were then to do the work. The contractors entered into a subcontract with Herbert E. Fletcher of Westford, MA to furnish the granite for the monoliths from a quarry at South Milford, New Hampshire. The stone from this quarry was determined to more nearly match the old sandstone columns.
Granite blocks were taken from the quarry of the necessary size and sent to the Webb Granite Company of Worcester, MA to be cut as required. They were shipped to the Capital needing only a little carving to finish them, and as the 1909 Washington DC newspaper further states "these great stones were set in place one by one to the great interest of the residents of Washington. The 29th column was set in place shortly before the inauguration of Howard Taft in 1909. All went well until the last column was to be put in place in the fall of 1908. It was rejected due to a supposedly "dry seam” that was 11 feet long and discovered by a government inspector". It had been reported that the seam had been detected in August of 1908 before the column left New England and that the contractors had been told that it would be useless to finish the cutting because the monolith would not be accepted. It is said that the contractor went ahead despite the warnings, finished the cutting and shipped the column to Washington. The superintendent in charge of the construction work, seeing the alleged flaw, rejected the column on September 22 of that year. His action was approved by the supervising architect on October 3. The contractors were then ordered to cut another stone.
The order was protested, not by Gilbert & Co., but by Mr. Fletcher himself and the Webb Granite Company. Architect Taylor reported that Massachusetts’s senators and Senator Gallinger of New Hampshire and other New England congressmen urged the department to reconsider its decision condemning the 30th column. It was contended that the alleged seam was unimportant and no better or worse than any other stone. The stone had lasted three quarters of a century and would probable last several times longer. Despite all these pleadings and protests the 30th column was rejected and the contractors were ordered to furnish a new one. The contractors said the cost of the rejected column had been estimated at $10,000 but according to Mr. Taylor that was excessive and could have only run from $3000 to $5000. When all was said and done a new stone was cut and was due in Washington in early May and that the reconstruction of the east front of the treasury building would be done by June 1 of 1909. Because the contract with the government had run out by December of 1908, fines were assessed of $50 per day for each day's delay. The fines eventually ran to over $5000. Whether the department would enforce the penalty was not known. As a general rule, however, it had been stated that the department was inclined to deal leniently with contractors who could show some good reason for delay. Under the contract the government had paid the contractors, from time to time, ninety percent of the value of the work that had been completed. The total payment at that time had been $250,000 with $75,000 still due.
Lovejoy quarry continued to prosper until the use of cement and macadam ruined the granite business. By 1911 H. E. Fletcher of Chelmsford, MA became a partner in the business and in 1923 he became the sole owner. By 1929 Fletcher was leasing the quarry and in 1950 leased it to the Milford Fish and Game Club to stock trout. Many older Milford residents remember swimming at this quarry in the 1950's and 1960's, then known as the Pease Quarry. Eventually the quarry became private property.
And now you know the rest of the story of Milford granite in the Treasury Building in Washington DC.