Stone’s throw from history
The Maine Coast Stone Symposium at the Boothbay Railway Village, celebrating local sculptors and stone masons, made us stop and think about this “rocky coast of Maine” we live on. As often happens at Spruce Point Inn, “stopfulness” – the art of taking the time to see what we look at – became an opportunity to consider things we take for granted.
That rocky shore whose granite blocks support Burnt Island Lighthouse and the carved corduroy that David Marx employs to such effect to catch reflections at Pemaquid Point are the stuff of so many iconic metaphors for the rugged coastline – a character literally composed of “oceanside memories made in Maine.”
But it was a passing note about the symposium’s tour of Dragon Cement in nearby Thomaston that inspired us to dig beneath the surface of our surroundings to investigate what lies within. Quite a story emerges, as we turn over the rocks.
The Maine coast is, as the Thomaston plant suggests to anyone driving Route 1 north to Rockland, an extensive holding, just as expansive in its economic contributions to the town for decades past. The Penobscot Marine Museum offers a photo of the Williams Quarry on Old County Road, on the Rockland-Thomaston line, which was once, at 400 feet, the deepest limestone quarry in the world. Chalk, or limestone, the building block of cement (to which aggregate is added to make concrete) runs as deep as recorded memory here. As it does on the old Roman cement roads or among the White Cliffs of Dover in England.
Coastal Maine is known by geologists for its granite, slate, limestone and clay (the last, formed after glacial plates grind the limestone to “rock flour”). Such materials to conjure with! Long dead calcified sea creatures layered deep in their coastal burrows under huge pressures for millennia (far longer in Maine than the geologically-relatively recent risings on the English coast) before being harvested to build a nation. As early as the 1730s, Thomaston-built and crewed sailing ships laden with ground limestone (“lime”) plied the coast for over a century, eventually reaching New Orleans and the West Indies with their barrels of industry-making dust.
While folklore tells of men formed from clay and “clench nails” hold “clinker-built boats” together, it turns out “clinkers” are the lumps of chemically-homogenized nuggets that emerge from the limestone kilns to be ground to dust. Imagery runs deep.
Here on the Mid-Coast as we (and the Stone Symposium artists) shape our clay, we reach into the quarries of our history to build on rock solid history — our own at Spruce Point and beyond. Tradition runs deep.