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Yule Marble



Yule Marble is found in the West Elk Mountains of Colorado near the town of Marble, Colorado ( 39°4′20″N, 107°11′22″W). It is famous for its uniform pure white consistency, lacking, for the most part, the gray streaking commonly found in other marble such as that found in Vermont. The rock is named for George Yule, a mining engineer who discovered and realized the value of the marble deposit. The Yule Marble deposit is among the largest in the world and, at 99.5% pure calcite, it is one of the purest marbles ever quarried. Yule Marble was declared the official Colorado state rock in 2004. The same year, the quarry was acquired by Polycor.

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Contents

Famous landmarks constructed with Yule Marble

The snowy white Yule Marble is favored by some sculptors for its white color and was used for a number of major national and state landmarks, most notably the Tomb of the Unknowns (Tomb of the Unknown Soldier) in Arlington National Cemetery, the Lincoln Memorial, and the Equitable Building skyscraper in New York City.   The first major use of the Yule Marble was in the Colorado State Capitol building in 1895.

Because of its aesthetic value, Yule Marble was selected for the facing and detailing of the Lincoln Memorial at the urging of the architect, Henry Bacon. The marble was used for the Tomb of the Unknowns because Yule Marble was the only quarry that could provide a solid block of the dimensions required. The 56-ton block was the largest single piece of marble ever quarried at that time.

Geologic formation

Marble is a metamorphic rock created through the heating and compression of limestone. Yule Marble was formed from the metamorphosis of Leadville Limestone in the area. The large size of the blocks that can be quarried is due to contact metamorphism rather than regional metamorphism.

This means that the metamorphosis is the result of igneous intrusion directly into the neighboring rock. In this case, the igneous intrusion was the Treasure Mountain Granite that superheated and compressed the limestone into the white marble we see today. Other marbles found in Vermont and Georgia are the result of Regional Metamorphism, which is more associated with the orogeny and erosion of mountain ranges on a regional scale. Contact metamorphism would also be responsible for the very concentrated area where Yule Marble is found. No other valley in Colorado contains significant marble deposits.

History

Discovery

Marble was discovered in the Crystal River Valley in the late 1870's by prospectors in search of gold and silver. The town of Marble was established, and further exploration was conducted in the area. Yule Marble was exhibited at the 1893 World Columbian Exposition in Chicago, thus becoming widely known and commercially viable as a product. The Town of Marble was incorporated in 1899.

Boom

By 1905, three quarries were extracting the pure white rock and the Colorado Yule Marble Company organized and completed a railroad spur to the town in 1906. The original Colorado Yule Marble Company would operate the Yule quarry from 1905 until 1941. The company built an expansive finishing mill 150 by 1,700 ft. (supposedly the largest building in the world under one roof) and a 3.5 mile tramway to the quarry.

The town reached its height around 1915, with between 1,500 and 4,000 residents, made up mostly of skilled Italian marble worker immigrants. There were two newspapers, two hotels, and a movie theater; it was the third largest industrial city in Colorado. However, the town and quarry's future did not last, and the market for marble collapsed during the First World War.

Bust

The quarry has never regained its former profitability. Although there was some increased activity in the 1930's, World War II ostensibly ended it. The quarry has never been in continuous operation for any long period of time since then. In 1990, there was another attempt to revive the quarry, but the operation proved short-lived. The site has changed hands several times in the past few decades, but only has been under limited operation. Sierra Minerals Corporation acquired a new lease on the quarry and reopened it in August of 1999. The repetition of economic failure in the area, from silver, to marble, to skiing, have caused residents to claim that Marble holds a Ute Indian curse against the economic ventures of white men.  

Today

According to the 2000 United States Census, 106 persons reside in the town currently. The previous owner had been commissioned to find a new block of perfect marble to replace the existing Tomb of the Unknowns, after a crack was discovered in the original. The quarry produced the block. Several sculptors live and work in the area, using the unused marble blocks for creating their artwork. They have proposed that the Tomb of the Unknowns be carved in Colorado by the local sculptors, rather than sent back east. In 2004, Polycor, the second largest stone company in North America, acquired the Yule Marble quarry.

Hazards of the quarry

The Yule Marble Quarry is notable for the extreme ruggedness of the terrain from which it is quarried and the natural hazards of the area. The quarry occupies a site on a hill that obstructs the Yule Creek valley, with steep slopes on all sides. The biggest natural hazard of the quarry is extreme avalanche danger in the area. The road approach to the quarry crosses several massive avalanche slide paths that threaten quarry trucks in the winter time. In addition, inherent hazards that accompany any mining or quarrying operation exist.

State rock

On March 9, 2004, Yule Marble became the official state rock of Colorado. The Bill, introduced by Girl Scout Troop 357 of Lakewood, Colorado and signed by Governor Bill Owens (R), rekindled some interest in the quarry and the area. A museum about the quarry was proposed relatively recently, but encountered opposition from some town residents and remains in limbo.

 
This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Yule_Marble". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.
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