Granite Capital of the World

What qualifies Elberton, Georgia to be nicknamed the “Granite Capital of the World?” For starters the type of granite found there is prized by those who use it for buildings, monuments, and memorials. It is fine grained and blue-grey in color. According to Tom Robinson, executive vice president of the Elberton Granite Association, the abundance of granite in Elberton may also have something to do with Elberton’s nickname. Geologists estimate that the granite deposit is 35 miles long, 6 miles wide, and 2 to 3 miles in depth. Bill Kelly, a historian for the granite history, recounts that area farmers thought of the granite rocks in their fields as big nuisances. Granite was first quarried in 1889 and used to build bridges or broken up as gravel for railroad beds. An Italian stonecutter, Peter Bertoni, came to the area and opened the first granite manufacturing plant. By the turn of the century, the industry was flourishing. Kelly notes that a reduction in freight rates helped make it more economical to ship the stone to other places. The industry boosts Elberton’s economy through sales, local employment, and a manufacturing plant that provides the specialized tools needed for working with granite. Skilled stonecutters are employed to cut and shape the stone by hand. Chip Rousey of Monumental Designs demonstrates how computers create stencils for carving designs and names into memorial stones. A trip to Elberton reveals how proud the city is of its granite heritage.

Teacher tip: Ask the class to suggest slogans, dates, names, or other information that would be suitable to include on a monument recognizing the city of Elberton. Assume the monument would be placed in the town square. Students should also design or suggest an appropriate shape for the monument.