Experience Local History with a Visit to the Deer Isle Granite Museum

The Deer Isle Granite Museum is a unique historical attraction near Pilgrim’s Inn that is worth a visit during your vacation stay- that is, if you’re vacationing in July and August (it’s only open those two months of the year). It’s a great place to stop in to learn about the unique history of the quarrying industry on Deer Isle and its famous pink granite. While the museum is small, you’ll leave with a greater understanding of how this industry shaped the culture and growth of the island. The visit will enhance your Maine experience and teach you a little about the history of the area.

History of the Deer Isle Granite Museum

The Deer Isle Granite Museum was founded in 1996 by Denie and Frank Weil, long-time summer residents of Stonington, Maine. This couple had a profound interest in preserving Deer Isle’s history, with a specific focus on the island’s quarrying industry. Two decades later, 2016 marks the 20th anniversary of the Deer Isle Granite Museum!

Working Model of Granite Quarry

At the Deer Isle Granite Museum, you will find a compilation of artifacts and texts on the local quarry history, but the star of the show is clearly the working model of an old granite quarry from 1900. This huge model depicts the process of mining for granite and includes trains, cars, and boats that move around to convey the mining process.

Stone Slabs and Iron Men

The Stone Slabs and Iron Men: The Deer Isle Granite Industry text exhibit at the Deer Isle Granite Museum is a highlight. Stone Slabs and Iron Men is a novel by Frank A. Weil, one of the founders of the Deer Isle Granite Museum that gives a glimpse of the history of the Deer Isle granite industry. This book is currently available at the Deer Isle Granite Museum as a special feature, though you can order the book on Amazon. An excerpt from the text reads:

Much of the beauty of granite comes from its color and texture… Crotch Island granite was speckled with lavender pink and milky white feldspar, and when polished, became rich, dark and distinct…

Many of America’s greatest monuments are built of the beautiful granite from Crotch Island, off Stonington. And according to those who worked in the quarries, it was a noble industry which finally died in 1966. But it was also an industry where men were blown up by black powder or crushed when huge blocks of stone slipped.

Deer Isle Granite Legacy

Among other uses, the granite in Deer Isle was quarried for sculptures at Rockefeller Plaza in New York City, the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, the Smithsonian Institution, the Manhattan Bridge, and the U.S. Naval Academy. Famed Maine sculptor Cabot Lyford also used seven tons of local Deer Isle granite to carve one of his most well-known pieces, “Life Force,” which features dolphins jumping from the water. Today, the island hosts the last remaining isolated island quarry on the New England Coast, Deer Isle Granite Company.

After Touring the Deer Isle Granite Museum

After touring the Deer Isle Granite Museum, you will have plenty of time for some outdoor activities on the island! After you’ve spent your day full of exploring, settle down back at Pilgrim’s Inn and enjoy a nice dinner at the adjacent Whale’s Rib Tavern before a relaxing night’s sleep. For more to do on Deer Isle, download our free vacation guide!