For many years Cape Ann — Rockport in particular — sustained a thriving granite industry. As early as 1800, the inhabitants of Cape Ann began cutting the peninsula’s 450 million year old granite into blocks of stone. The granite industry gradually expanded throughout the 19th Century to the point where it actually superseded the fishing industry in Rockport as the town’s primary business. Quarrying reached its zenith about the year 1910.
The Cape Ann granite industry became successful for a number of reasons. The fine quality of the granite quickly attracted the attention of builders all along the eastern seaboard. As word spread, the granite was regularly shipped throughout the world. Cape Ann’s location allowed for quarries to be set-up close to shore so that the granite blocks could be shipped by vessel. This was important in the early days when railway service was non-existent. Despite the above advantages, it was the rugged character, ingenuity, and perseverance of the people of Cape Ann that made quarrying successful. The men worked year-round in the quarries — irrespective of weather. Before steam engines and drills became available in the 1850s, most of the arduous work was done by hand or with teams of oxen.
The Great Depression ushered in the collapse of the local granite industry. By that time, demand shifted to concrete and steel for building construction and asphalt for street paving. For over 100 years, however, the rock cut and shipped from Cape Ann was used in the construction of many famous buildings throughout the U.S. — including parts of the Statue of Liberty and other great monuments. Paving stones from local quarries were used in the construction of thousands of streets worldwide.
Today, most of the quarries in Cape Ann have filled with both rain and spring water to form deep ponds. Many of the quarries are now hidden in forests which nature has reclaimed. Owing to their colorful beauty and intriguing nature, the quarries are popular with visitors and artists alike. Guided quarry tours are offered frequently at Halibut Point State Park in Rockport — site of the Babson Farm Quarry.