Mosquito Mountain Granite Quarry, Frankfort
The Mount Waldo Granite
|The Mount Waldo Granite underlies an area south of Winterport and west of Bucksport, near the mouth of the Penobscot River, mid-coast Maine. The granite body is named for Mount Waldo in the town of Frankfort, the highest of a small group of hills underlain by the granite (See maps in Figure 1). Other hills include Mosquito Mountain, Mack Mountain, Heagan Mountain, and Treat Hill. The local topography is a result of the way this particular granite has eroded over geologic time.
The combination of bare rock ledges and proximity to tidewater made this granite amenable to quarrying in the early 1800's. The two significant quarries in the Mount Waldo Granite in the 1800's were on the northeast flank of Mount Waldo itself, and near the top of Mosquito Mountain. According to a description of the operations from the early 1900's, the quarried stone was taken over graded tracks, operated by gravity, to cutting sheds and wharfs on Marsh River. From there it was taken on the Penobscot River and distributed to eastern ports in Massachusetts, New York, and Philadelphia, and to "western" cities of Chicago, Milwaukee, and Cleveland (Dale, 1907).
|After lying dormant for years, the quarry on Mosquito Mountain was recently reactivated by Freshwater Stone, a local small business that designs and crafts stone products, mostly for in-state projects. As with most Maine granite quarries, there is plenty of quality stone left in the ground for the entrepreneur who can carve out a market. The Mount Waldo quarry is currently owned by the town of Frankfort, which sells granite blocks from the tailings piles on a contract basis. The Mount Waldo quarry is open to the general public, whereas the Mosquito Mountain quarry is an active construction area (Figure 2) that requires special permission of the owner for access.
|The Mount Waldo Granite has a coarse-grained texture (Figure 3), which gives it a more patchy, mottled look than the finer-grained granites. According to its mineral content it qualifies as a true granite, with approximately equal proportions of quartz, alkali feldspar, and plagioclase feldspar (Gibson and others, 2003). Black specks are scattered through the rock, consisting mostly of black mica (biotite) but also with minor hornblende in some places. Its distinctive aspect is the presence of occasional large grains of white alkali feldspar up to an inch long. The large feldspar grains are more common in the Mosquito Mountain quarry than at the Mount Waldo quarry, though their abundance is variable across the dozens of square miles of the granite body. Some of the larger, slightly grayish alkali feldspar grains are enclosed by rims of white plagioclase feldspar, a feature with the peculiar name of rapakivi texture, a name first used for granites in Finland over a century ago (by Sederholm, 1891, cited in the Timetable of Petrology).
The large, elongate feldspar grains are more or less aligned in many places, giving a subtle sense of direction to the stone (Figure 3). This characteristic was called "flow structure" by Dale (1907), because it reflects the flow of the molten mass before it solidified into granite. The pattern of this internal structure was further investigated by Trefethen (1944) who mapped it across the granite body and found it to be parallel to the northern and eastern margins of the granite, while being at a high angle to the older fabric in the surrounding metamorphic rocks (Figure 1C). These observations demonstrate that the feldspar alignment is a property of the granite itself, related to its process of formation.
The Mosquito Mountain Quarry
|The large rock exposures at the Mosquito Mountain quarry contain other clues to the formation of the granite. Thin dark layers (Figure 4) indicate the way in which the granite solidified, with successive layers being added to those already solidified. Scattered blobs of finer-grained rock (Figure 5) are remnants of small batches of different magma that were stirred into the main granite magma, yet not completely mixed before it solidified. These features all testify to the movement of molten rock within the large magma chamber as the Mount Waldo Granite was emplaced in a molten state and gradually solidified into rock. This happened in the Devonian Period of geologic time, as established by laboratory experiments on specimens of the granite that show it is 371 million years old, plus or minus 2 million years (by R. D. Tucker, reported by Stewart, 1998).
Not only did it happen a long time ago, but the process of granite formation took a long time to play out. In particular, it takes time for solid minerals to grow to the size we now see in the Mount Waldo Granite. Estimates from experimental and theoretical work are that it takes at least several tens of thousands of years and perhaps over a hundred thousand years for a sizable granite body to completely crystallize. Geologists have estimated that for the Mount Waldo Granite, this took place at a depth of about 7 miles below the surface at the time (Gibson and others, 2003). Clearly, a significant amount of erosion has taken place since then to wear away the overlying rock and expose the middle of the granite to the modern land surface. Gravity surveys of the remaining granite (Sweeney, 1976) indicate that it continues for several miles below the ground surface still.
All the events of its geologic history combine to give the rock its character and structure. For quarrying, the most important features are the sheeting joints - long, nearly flat natural fractures that extend through the rock. These horizontal sheeting joints allow rock to be removed in blocks of appropriate thickness. At the Mosquito Mountain quarry, the vertical sides of the blocks are either cut by wire saws, or else broken apart by drilling a line of vertical holes and pouring in a water-based expansive mortar to push it apart (Figure 6). The orientations of the vertical faces are chosen to take into account the rift and grain of the rock, directions along which the rock has a natural preference to break on straight surfaces. These directions are not easy to see, and are discovered by experience.
Uses for the Stone through the Years
Fort Knox, Prospect (1851-1869)
After suffering humiliation at the hands of the British Navy on the lower Penobscot River in the War of 1812, the U. S. government decided to build defensive installations along the Maine coast. The first and grandest of these was Fort Knox, in the town of Prospect, across the river from Bucksport. Over the course of 18 years, block after block was taken from the Mount Waldo quarry, transported down the mountain, then carried by river barge the five miles to the fort.
Augusta Post Office (1890)
One of many post offices and federal government buildings in the eastern U. S. constructed of Maine granite in the late 1800's, the Augusta Post Office was built of granite from the Mount Waldo quarry (Rand, 1958).
- Archival post cards
- Modern views of the building
Landscaping Projects (Ongoing)
View some of the projects currently being made of granite from the Mosquito Mountain quarry. Notice that while stone continues to be used as a structural building material, it is increasingly used as a decorative focal point in homes and in landscape spaces.
Penobscot Narrows Bridge and Observatory (2006)
A new cable stay bridge is being constructed across the Penobscot River, to carry U.S. Route 1 to Verona Island. The western pylon of the bridge will contain an elevator to an observation deck at 420 feet, offering spectacular panoramic views. A large beam of Mount Waldo granite from the Mosquito Mountain quarry (Figure 8) will rest over the entryway to the observation tower (Figure 9, Figure 10). Visitors to the tower will be able to see Mount Waldo, Mosquito Mountain, and Fort Knox, completing the granite connection between past and present.
Dale, T. Nelson, 1907, The granites of Maine: U. S. Geological Survey, Bulletin 313, 202 p.
Gibson, D., Lux, D. R., and Choate, M. A., 2003, Petrography of a "cryptic" mixed magma system - the Mount Waldo granite, coastal Maine: Atlantic Geology, v. 39, p. 163-173.
Osberg, Philip H., Hussey, Arthur M., II, and Boone, Gary M. (editors), 1985, Bedrock geologic map of Maine: Maine Geological Survey, scale 1:500,000.
Rand, John R., 1958, Maine granite quarries and prospects: Maine Geological Survey, Minerals Resources Index No. 2, 50 p.
Sederholm, J. J., 1891, Über die finnlandishen Rapakiwigesteine: Tschermaks Mineralogische Petrographische, Mitteilungen 12, p. 1-31.
Stewart, David B., 1998, Geology of northern Penobscot Bay, Maine, with contributions to geochronology by Robert D. Tucker: U. S. Geological Survey, Miscellaneous Investigations Series Map I-2551, 2 sheets, map scale 1:62,500.
Sweeney, J. F., 1976, Subsurface distribution of granitic rocks, south-central Maine: Geological Society of America, Bulletin, v. 87, p. 241-249.
Trefethen, Joseph M., 1944, Mt. Waldo batholith and associated igneous rocks, Waldo County, Maine: Geological Society of America, Bulletin, v. 55, p. 895-904.
Wones, David R., 1991, Bedrock geologic map of the Bucksport quadrangle Waldo, Hancock, and Penobscot Counties, Maine: U. S. Geological Survey, Geologic quadrangle map GQ-1692, scale 1:62,500.
Web site by Henry Berry.
MGS photos by Henry Berry, May, 2006.
Thanks to Jeff Gammelin for allowing access to the Mosquito Mountain quarry.
Last updated on April 19, 2012