As I drove through what is known as the Slate Valley—a 24-mile-long, 6-mile-wide region with an overabundance of the metamorphic rock—I couldn’t help but feel inspired. This was a place built by the hands of men, not machines. The evidence was everywhere—slate-lined rooftops; slate, beckoning in the form of benches; in giant slabs on sidewalks; and crushed underfoot in driveways. And those men had been at it for a long time.
Nearly 170 years ago, the industry first began to gather steam, along the New York-Vermont border, stretching from Granville, NY—about an hour northeast of Saratoga Springs—all the way up to Fair Haven, VT. The industry was able to flourish because of extended railroad lines, and to this day, roughly 25 companies still mine several quarries in the region.
The area’s standout star? Granville, which has been dubbed The Colored Slate Capital of the World because of its stockpiles of the rock, which comes in the rich hues of purple, green and red. “We like to say that there is a little bit of Granville all over the world, because slate roofs and sidewalks can be found everywhere from village squares to churches to major universities and beautiful homes,” says Krista Rupe, Executive Director of the Slate Valley Museum, one of just two of its kind in the world. (The other’s in Wales.) “Even the Pentagon has a slate roof made from Slate Valley slate.”
At one point, I got out of my car and took a closer look at the rock. It’s amazing how it’s been used in all these towns for such practical purposes. But maybe its most important quality? It’s been able to withstand the test of time.