Many people in Alabama, including those who reside in Talladega County, aren’t aware of a 35-mile vein of pure, white marble in that region so pristine that it’s been used as dimension stone on the lobby walls of the U.S. Supreme Court.
Sylacauga, known as Alabama’s “Marble City,” saw a considerable boom in the early 1900s when famed sculptors Giuseppe Moretti and Gutzon Borglum chose marble from the area for their sculptures. By the 1930s, though, fashion turned to granite as the preferred stone for big-statement outdoor sculptures, as it was better able to withstand industrial pollution.
All this history is detailed in a new book called “Magic in Stone: The Sylacauga Marble Story,” by Ruth Beaumont Cook. The title is available through publisher New South Books.
The biggest change, the author notes, was a changeover from large slab production to producing ground calcium carbonate, a fundamental ingredient in toothpaste, foodstuffs, paints, caulks and sealants. Grinding the beautiful marble blocks into dust was profitable but lacked the excitement of being hailed by European artists and craftsmen. The operation became just another industrial exercise.
That changed in 2009, with a renewed interest in the artistic value of Sylacauga marble. That same year, the Magic of Marble Festival saw its debut, inspiring artists to once again apply their talents to the cream-white blocks of stone.
“Even the people from around here weren’t that aware of the quarries,” Ted Spears, a retired educator who spearheaded the first annual Sylacauga Marble Festival, told Business Alabama for its July 2009 issue.
The goal of the festival was to put the city’s signature industry back in the forefront, and there’s an accompanying book to tell that story. For more information on “Magic in Stone,” visit newsouthbooks.com.