Mount Airy, “Granite City”

A man working at the N.C. Granite Company Quarry, circa 1910-1918. Image from the North Carolina Collection

On May 14, 1889, the North Carolina Granite Company was founded in Surry County by Thomas Woodroffe. It has been in continuous operation since. Now known as the North Carolina Granite Corporation, it is the world’s largest open-faced granite quarry.

The site has produced granite for many high rise buildings and even for the Singapore subway system. Its granite has been used to create several notable structures including the Fort Knox Bullion Depository in Kentucky, the Wright Brothers Monument at Kitty Hawk, the Centennial Olympic Plaza in Atlanta and the World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C.

The granite is also popular for curbing, especially in northern states that use salt in winter, since salt breaks down concrete curbs in short order. Other uses for the product include tombstones and mausoleums. Waste granite, the small bits that are left over from extraction and from fabrication, is crushed for road construction and landscape use.

Located on the Ararat River near Mt. Airy, the active quarry covers more than 200 acres and is estimated to have enough granite to continue extracting it at the current rate for 500 more years. The quarry is the source of Mt. Airy’s” Granite City” nickname.

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