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A Brief History

George B. Milne, one of the three founders of Rock of Ages, opened his first granite manufacturing business in 1885. During the last decade of the nineteenth century he had several short-lived partnerships. In 1905, he joined forces with quarry owners James Boutwell and Harvey Varnum, forming Boutwell, Milne & Varnum Company ("BM&V").

The company operated quarries in Graniteville, selling Medium Barre and specializing in Dark Barre granite. Before 1930, "BM&V" did no manufacturing of its own. However, they knew that memorial manufacturers would buy Barre granite from them and not from their many competitors as long as they educated the public about the granite and its superior grade. BM&V also made alliances with manufacturers to provide guarantees. Each monument made of Barre granite from the BM&V quarries was guaranteed against checking, cracking and discoloration.

In 1914 BM&V hired Hayes Advertising of Burlington, Vermont, to increase the visibility of their national advertising campaign. The name "Rock of Ages" was chosen. From 1914 forward all Barre granite from the BM&V quarries was marketed as "Rock of Ages," gaining name-brand recognition for the granite that would prove instrumental in establishing market share when the company entered the highly competitive manufacturing market in 1930. The name proved so successful that it was adopted by the company when it incorporated in 1925.

Because of its national marketing presence, visitors coming to Vermont flocked to the BM&V quarries in Graniteville. By 1924, so many people were coming to look into the "holes," BM&V included a room for visitors in the floor plan of the new machinists' building. Called the "retiring room," this cheery room was furnished with wicker furniture and provided a place of rest for the many guests who visited.

In the 1930s, college-aged men, dressed in knickers, were hired during the summers. They escorted guests to a platform overlooking the "hole" and answered questions about the quarrying process. During the 1940s and 1950s the tour program grew, providing visitors with guided tours of both quarrying and manufacturing operations. The State of Vermont acknowledged the steady stream of visitors coming to see the Rock of Ages quarries and asked the company to compile travel information to assist the State with the placement of the new highways being planned in the 1950s and  early 1960s.

To accommodate the growing tourism generated by the quarries, Rock of Ages built a 2,800-square-foot Visitors Center in 1962. By 1967, more than 100,000 visitors were coming to Barre each year to view the quarries and Craftsman Center (factory) at Rock of Ages.

In 1984 Rock of Ages was purchased by the Swenson Granite Works, headquartered in Concord, NH.

Swenson Granite is a family-owned business that has been quarrying and cutting granite in New England since 1883. Founded by Swedish immigrant John Swenson, the company is now headed by the fourth generation of the Swenson Family. For more than a century the Swenson name has remained synonymous with a steadfast commitment to quality and service. It is this commitment, combined with adaptability in the marketplace, which Swenson Granite credits for its longevity, growth and prosperity. When you purchase granite products from Swenson Granite, you are buying directly from the source.  Please visit us online to learn more about our curbing and landscaping products. 

The year 2014 marks the 90th anniversary of the opening of the first retiring room for visitors and the beginning of a new era in visitor services at Rock of Ages. On May 1, 2004, Rock of Ages opened a new 5,000-square-foot building, which houses a new Visitors Center and Memorial Design Studio. Designed by the firm of Gossens Bachman Architects of Montpelier, Vermont, the building features an eclectic mix of granite, wood and glass and is surrounded by trees to offer a sophisticated yet homey ambiance. The Visitors Center houses a theatre, displays, computer-based exhibits and a gift shop. The Memorial Design Studio features high-end, professionally lighted displays, exquisitely crafted memorials and stunning graphics. Its interior is based upon a design by Horst Design International of Cold Spring Harbor, New York.

The Rock of Ages Visitors Center in Graniteville continues its mission as an ambassador of goodwill for the company. Its thousands of guests marvel at the enormity of Smith Quarry and stand transfixed as they view a master sculptor transform Rock of Ages granite into an enduring work of art. Guests have an opportunity to try their hand at sandblasting their very own stone souvenir and bowling on the world’s only outdoor granite bowling lane.

Today, Rock of Ages is the premier granite quarrier and manufacturer in North America. The company owns and operates granite quarries in several states and in Canada and is the largest producer of cemetery memorials in the US and Canada. The Rock of Ages Quarry Division supplies a variety of quality granites to stone manufacturers around the globe. Our Memorial Division fabricates traditional and cremation memorials, mausoleums, columbaria, features and civic memorials with a dedication to quality and customer service that is the standard by which all of our competitors are measured.  The Rock of Ages Industrial Products Division fabricates precision surface plates, machine bases, pickling and acid tanks and press rolls for a variety of manufacturing applications. 

To learn more about Rock of Ages' quarry operations and wholesale rough granite block sales visit the Quary Products page.

To discover more about Rock of Ages' traditional and cremation memorials visit the Traditional Memorials page.  

To view information about Rock of Ages' custom mausoleums visit the Mausoleums & Columbaria page.

For help in creating a civic memorial for your community or organization visit the Civic Memorials page

To learn more about Rock of Ages' precision industrial granite products visit the Industrial Products page

Find the Rock of Ages Authorized Dealer nearest you.

To visit us, please check out our tour options, dates and times.  

To learn more about beautifying your home or office with granite please visit the Swenson Granite Works site.