The Barre Granite Association (BGA) is comprised of Barre-area granite quarriers and manufacturers of memorials and other granite products, as well as other businesses that provide products and services related to the granite industry. The BGA provides collective bargaining and industrial relations for its members, as well as industry research, educational programs, public relations and marketing nationwide, in addition to government and regulatory representation on a state and national level. In the 1970’s, publications began on the Barre Life Magazine, which is still distributed to over 7,000 recipients nationwide. The industry employs more than 1,000 people and annual sales exceed $100 million.
The Barre Granite Association was born on April 6, 1889, when a group of Barre granite manufacturers gathered to begin a display for the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago. That meeting gave a rise to the Barre Granite Manufacturers’ Association, whose name was changed to the Barre Granite Association in 1932. Barre Gray Granite was used extensively in the early 1800’s for millstones, paving stones and home and building construction. It was at that time that Robert Parker became Barre’s first professional quarryman and the first granite manufacturer. Slowly, but steadily the granite industry grew, causing Barre’s population to expand to 2,012 by the year 1830. A few years later the industry would get a tremendous boost with the contract for a new Vermont Statehouse to be built of Barre Gray granite in Montpelier, VT. It was the first major building project to use Barre granite. Then, in 1875, the railroad came to town, giving Barre access to the markets of the world.
In the 1880’s, Barre experienced a technological boom. Emery L. Smith, who later became the first mayor of Barre City, pioneered new quarrying technology, including a permanent derrick, electrically detonated explosives, the steam drill and the pneumatic plug drill. Electricity came to the region in 1885, giving rise to power cutting, polishing, surfacing, carving and stone transferring with overhead cranes.
With rapid growth in the granite industry, immigrants began flooding into Barre, and by 1890 the population had more than to 6,790. The first workers to arrive were Scots, followed by Italians, Scandinavians, Spanish, English, Irish, Greeks, and French-Canadians. When an order for 10 million hand-cut paving stones for the city of Troy, New York, was received, this gave Barre’s granite industry a big boost in the 1890’s. At that time about 40 quarries were cutting granite, primarily for monuments and memorials, and by 1902 Barre became the Granite Center of the World, with 68 quarries producing granite valued at more than $1.5 million.