Danby Marble For JFK Memorial

By Marchen Skinner
March 23, 1966

Danby Imperial marble taken from Vermont Marble Company’s 15-acre underground quarry here has been selected for the John F. Kennedy graveside memorial at Arlington National Cemetery, Va.

The monument with its presidential seal carved in relief is scheduled to be completed by Nov. 22, the anniversary of the late president’s death.

The marble is being cut and sawed to size at the quarry by two sawyers, Herbert Sady of Pawlet on the day shift and Harrison Ricketts of Danby on the night shift. They follow measurements from architectural plans designed by John Carl Warnecke. Contractor for the memorial is Aberthaw Construction Co., Washington, D.C.

Using wire saws combined with water and an abrasive of corundum and aluminum oxide, the sewers are cutting through one of Vermont’s hardest marbles to fulfill the specifications.

Plans for the monument call for one 18 by 8 1/2—foot block and two 9-foot blocks of the same width to form a 36-foot by 8-foot, 6-inch high shield or flat surface on which the Presidential seal will be carved in relief.

The memorial, which will weigh 70 tons, will be 3 feet, 6 inches at the base and taper to one foot, six inches at the top. From the front, it will appear rectangle. But viewed from the sides, it will give a tapered view, resembling a pyramid.

Ten wide marble steps leading to the memorial will also be of Danby Imperial marble as well as black granite from Stonington, Maine which will be used for a retaining wall.

Roy Webster, superintendent of the Danby quarry for the last 20 years, estimates the quarry will supply some 64 pieces of marble in all. The work began several months ago, he says, and he expects it to continue for at least a month to six weeks more.

More blocks are quarried than needed, he explained, so a choice may be offered the representatives in charge of the memorial’s construction. Webster said that he did not expect any members of the Kennedy family to visit the quarry.

The selected blocks, after being sawed to finish size, will be shipped to Vermont Marble Company at Proctor where they will be sand finished, a process considered more practical for outdoor use. The marble will be smooth but not shiny.

From Proctor, the blocks, because of their great weight, will mostly be shipped by train. Smaller pieces will go by trucks. The carving of the seal will be done after the marble’s arrival in Washington.

This is not the first time that Danby Imperial marble has been chosen for important memorials. The marble can also be found in the Lincoln and Jefferson Memorials and has been used in the construction of the U.S. Senate office building and the Oregon State Capitol. The largest single block ever taken from the quarry weighed 93 tons and was used to create the covered wagon incorporated in the Oregon building. Another 83-ton block was quarried to form the decorative eagle, carved in relief on the Veterans Memorial Building, Detroit, Mich.

The quarry, which opened in 1906, is located 1, 350 feet up Dorset Mountain, off U.S. 7. Supt. Webster says they have trouble these days keeping pace with demands for Danby Imperial marble, the whiteness of which is enhanced by gold flecks, giving it an ethereal appearance.

An artist’s rendering of the John F. Kennedy grave at Arlington National Cemetery shows the steps leading to the memorial, the eternal flame and the long low marble wall with the presidential seal carved on its surface. The wall is the terminal point of the grave design. Flowering magnolias flank the site. The grave memorial is being carved from marble quarried in Danby. This picture was taken by Banner photographer Chet Ringheiser at the Vermont Marble Company office in Danby.