Area Profile - Industry
The Slate Valley of New York and Vermont spans approximately twenty-four miles along the New York and Vermont border from Granville, New York and Rupert, Vermont north to Fair Haven, Vermont. The area, which is rich with slate deposits, is only about six miles wide.
The slate producing region of New York, which centers around Granville and Middle Granville, is particularly important because it contains one of the few commercial deposits of red slate and the only working red slate quarries in the world, earning the region the title of the "Colored Slate Capital of the World." New York red slate is a very high quality slate with a life expectancy of 200 years.
Uses of Slate
Over the years slate has been used for:
* roofing slates
* billiard table tops
* flooring and interior finishes
* school slates
* electrical switchboards
* lavatory accessories
A large amount of slate is or has been ground and used for coating asphalt shingles, tennis courts, and laboratory slabs.
Slate has been used for roofing since before the American Revolution. Roofing slate has been uncovered in Jamestown, Virginiain dating back to 1625-1650. Slate roofs were introduced in Boston as early as 1654 and Philadelphia in 1699. Seventeenth century building ordinances of New York and Boston recommended the use of slate roofing to ensure fireproof construction. In the early days, most of the slate used for roofing was imported from Wales. It was not until the slate could be transported that quarrying roofing slate became popular.
Slate mining began on "Scotch Hill" in Fair Haven, in 1839. In 1850, slate deposits were discovered near Middle Granville. William R. Williams opened Granville's first quarry in 1852 on property leased from George Porter. By 1857, Welsh born Eleazar Jones, the founder of the Penrhyn Slate Company had control of most of the slate deposits south of the original quarry and employed close to one hundred and fifty men in the quarries and the mills. The Penrhyn Mantel and Slate Company produced Marbleized Slate Fireplaces which were sold in the Sears and Roebuck Catalog. They can still be found in Victorian Homes through out the United States.
The slate industry was in full bloom. Trains stopped in Granville twice a day, picking slate up and dropping passengers off. Seven banks and several slate offices lined the streets of Granville. Rows of houses with various colored slate roofs were built and used for housing, boarding and hotels. The mark of a slate baron’s house was a red slate roof.
1908-10 were the last profitable years for the slate industry in Vermont. There was a mass exodus of workmen as a result of World War I (1914-1918), many never returned. By 1918 many quarrymen were working short hours or unemployed. Man-made materials, such as asphalt shingles could be mass produced, transported and installed at a lower cost than slate.
In the last couple of decades, historic preservation has become popular. Given the typical lifespan of slate roofing (60-125 years), many slate roofs need repairing or replacing. This means new or used slate and skilled craftsmen to replace the slate. The quarries which lay dormant for many decades cannot pull new slate out of the ground
fast enough to fill some of the orders. The rare New York red slate of Granville is in high demand again.
Colors of Slate
* New York Unfading Red
* Sea Green
* Semi-weathering Grey Green
* Varigated Purple
* Vermont Grey
* Unfading Purple
* Mottled Purple
* Monson Black
The Slate Valley Museum
The Rutland Herald; Cover story: Slate of Ages, By Pamela Hayes Rehlen
The Repair, Replacement, and Maintenance of Historic Slate Roofs, by Jeffrey S. Levine
Village of Granville Comprehensive Plan, Inventory and Analysis, Village History