Magic in Stone

The Sylacauga Marble Story

Title Details

Pages: 304

Illustrations: 60 b&w photos

Trim size data not found for this book.



Pub Date: 11/05/2019

ISBN: 9-781-5883-8404-1

List Price: $28.95

Magic in Stone

The Sylacauga Marble Story

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  • Description
  • Reviews

Sylacauga—Alabama’s “Marble City”—is blessed with an abundant natural resource that nurtures both its economy and its cultural heritage. Thirty-five miles long, at least four hundred feet deep, and more than a mile wide, the Sylacauga Marble Belt yields crystalline white marble frequently compared to the Parian marble treasured by Greek sculptors and the Italian Carrara marble often chosen by Michelangelo. Artisans have quarried Sylacauga marble for tombstones since the early 1800s, and architects prized it for years as dimension stone for buildings like the United States Supreme Court. In the early 1900s, Giuseppe Moretti and Gutzon Borglum both chose this marble for magnificent sculptures.

When granite, better able to withstand industrial pollution, overtook marble as the preferred architectural stone in the 1930s, Sylacauga’s quarry owners shifted their focus to the production of ground calcium carbonate (GCC), a fundamental ingredient in manufactured products from toothpaste, foodstuffs, and disposable diapers to paints, caulks, and sealants. Many cringe at the idea of blasting and grinding marble into fine powder, but GCC is a vital factor in the local economy. Thankfully, the Magic of Marble Festival, first held in 2009, has revitalized interest in the artistic value of Sylacauga marble, inspiring sculptors from across the United States and masters from Italy to apply their skills to cream-white blocks of this beautiful stone and share their creativity with thousands of residents and visitors each year.

This is the story of quarry pioneers, investors, artists, and artisans. It's also the story of their families, who fondly remember their lives along the edge of “the hole” that provided for them.

Ruth Cook has woven a tapestry of historical, cultural, personal and industrial components into a great read about the significance and magic of Sylacauga’s marble. Her interviews with former residents of Gantts Quarry about their way of life in the Village and the delightful attitude they expressed about growing up in that safe and nurturing environment add a heartwarming element to the story. Her research on the owners of the historic quarries and the mining of the marble, combined with comments from current quarry officials, illuminate the past importance of the pure white stone while illustrating the evolution of the marble as it relates to today’s market. Hers will be the definitive book on the subject for generations to come.

—Shirley K. Spears, B. B. Comer Memorial Public Library Foundation

Pure white marble has been revered for thousands of years by architects and artists alike as the gold standard of stone. As a young sculptor from Alabama, I travelled halfway around the world to Carrara, Italy, in search of this majestic material, only to find out years later I had it here in my own back yard. Just as Giuseppe Moretti discovered in the early 1900s, Sylacauga marble’s fine crystalline structure and beautiful white color make it ideal for sculpture. Its translucency rivals the finest statuary marble of Carrara as it holds light, glowing with a life from within. Ruth Cook has done an exceptional job telling the story of Sylacauga’s “White Gold," putting into words the glow and memories of lives connected to this Magic in Stone.

—Craigger Browne, Sculptor in Residence, City of Sylacauga

About the Author/Editor

RUTH BEAUMONT COOK was born in Bedford, Ohio, and is a graduate of The Ohio State University. She has lived in Alabama since 1970 and has served on the boards of the Writing Today conference at Birmingham-Southern College and the Alabama Writers' Forum. Previous books include North Across the River (1999 and 2000) and Guests Behind the Barbed Wire (2007 and 2012), which was awarded the bronze medal for outstanding historical writing by the Independent Publishers Group. She is the author of several corporate histories and numerous feature articles for Birmingham magazine, Alabama Heritage , and other publications. She lives in Birmingham with her husband Barney, near her two sons and their families.