August 5: The Statue of Liberty’s Connecticut Cornerstone

 

While scores of Connecticut men and women have left an indelible mark on American history, sometimes it’s easy to forget that objects from Connecticut can have their own stories of national significance, too.

In fact, some of the most monumental objects in Connecticut history can be traced to a single point of origin: a naturally occurring vein of pink granite that runs beneath the shoreline town of Branford and Guilford. Enterprising Connecticut Yankees first began mining operations in the 1850s, and soon the area was dotted with quarries that quickly gained a national reputation for the quality and beauty of the pink granite they produced. The granite from this single geological vein was used for some of America’s most iconic monuments and buildings of the late 19th century, including Grant’s Tomb, the George Washington Bridge in New York City, the Battle Monument at West Point, and the museum buildings of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C.

This image from Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper shows the laying of the Statue of Liberty’s pedestal cornerstone on August 5, 1884.

Perhaps the most notable use of Connecticut’s pink granite was for the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty. The stone was hand-selected from the Beattie Quarry in Guilford, owned and operated by Scottish immigrant John Beattie, and would eventually make up the entire outer wall of the statue’s pedestal, shielding the supportive concrete interior from view. On August 5th, 1884, amid plenty of pomp and circumstance, a six ton piece of Beattie’s Connecticut granite was laid as the cornerstone for the Statue of Liberty’s pedestal. Construction of the pedestal soon slowed to a halt due to financial shortfalls, but thanks in part to a vigorous fundraising campaign led by newspaper publisher Joseph Pulitzer (the eventual namesake of the Pulitzer Prize), the pedestal was eventually completed in April of 1886. However, regardless of the many delays that plagued the construction of the statue, Liberty’s foundation was guaranteed to be a rock solid one, thanks to Connecticut’s little granite quarry that could.

Further Reading

Statue of Liberty: Construction of the Pedestal,” National Park Service pamphlet

Branford’s History is Set in Stone,” connecticuthistory.org