Preservation Trust Completes Museum Purchase
After a two-and-a-half year process, the Trust is pleased to announce the completion of the acquisition of the Vermont Marble Museum in Proctor, Vermont.
The property was transferred in two parts. Today, the Trust acquired the 90,000 sq. ft. Marble Mill Building that houses the Vermont Marble Museum collection on the second floor. A variety of businesses, some of which are related to the marble industry, use rental space on the first floor. In 2012, the Trust acquired the museum collection, including the exhibits and a large library of historic glass plate negatives.
The purchase of the Vermont Marble Museum was made possible by generous individual donors, several foundations, a major grant from the Vermont Housing and Conservation Board, and support from US Department of Agriculture.
In addition to acquiring the Museum, the Trust has worked to establish a new nonprofit – the Vermont Marble Museum Inc. – that will operate the museum and oversee the management of the real estate. The Trust is very fortunate that Bob and Vicky Young of Proctor and Ina Smith Johnson of Poultney have stepped up to form the first Board of Directors of the organization and take on the stewardship of the building. Because of grant and loan requirements, the Trust will hold the building and lease it to the new nonprofit for the next five years. At the end of the five-year period, the building will be passed on to the museum; the collection will be on permanent loan to the museum.
The museum has remained open seasonally through this transition. The cafe and gift shop is open year-round.
Over the next several years, the Trust will be seeking state, federal and other grants to address environmental cleanup, upgrade the building to comply with current code and life safety requirements, and begin the process of rehabilitating the former mill building. This has been a long journey with lots of ups-and-downs and twists-and-turns in the road. The Trust is grateful that the owners of the museum and real estate, Martin and Marsha Hemm, were patient through this complicated process.
The Trust’s ultimate goal with this project is enable the museum to tell the story of one of Vermont’s most important legacies: marble. The Museum has the potential of becoming a major attraction in the state and an education resource for VT schools. In addition, the Museum and incubator space in the building will play a strong and important roll in the Town of Proctor’s future prosperity.
Why do we care so much about the Vermont Marble Museum?
Located in Proctor, Vermont, The Vermont Marble Museum tells the story of what was once the largest marble company in the world and one of Vermont’s most important industries.
The Vermont Marble Company had an enormous impact on the built environment of our nation. Largely quarried or carved locally, marble from The Vermont Marble Company was used in the Jefferson Memorial, the US Supreme Court Building, the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier as well as hundreds of other monuments and memorials all over the world. The museum and its collection, including over 3,000 glass plate negatives, tell the stories of these projects and the marble industry.
Keeping the museum in Proctor ensures that the story of this community and its people will remain local, and alive. The Vermont Marble Museum is located in Proctor, Vermont’s only “company town.” Founded in the late 19th century, the town was established and grew hand-in-hand with the Vermont Marble Company. The Vermont Marble Company’s showroom, located in the company’s original finishing shed, provided the founding collection (and location) for the museum. For the people of Proctor today — many descendants of the Italian, Swedish, Polish, German, Hungarian and other immigrants brought in to work in the factory — this museum is their history.
Acting now will keep the Marble Museum a part of Vermont’s future. The Preservation Trust of Vermont will soon purchase the museum building and transfer ownership to a non-profit organization. This will protect the museum collection from future risk and ensure that it will not be sold piecemeal to collectors around the world.
In the spring of 2012, after many years of operations, the current owners decided to close the Museum and sell the collection. The Preservation Trust stepped in, hoping to raise enough money to purchase the entire operation with the ultimate goal of keeping the collection intact and finding a new non-profit owner to run the museum in its current location in Proctor.
This was a miraculous turn-around. A little more than a month prior, we announced that we had not succeeded in raising the $400,000 necessary to acquire the entire museum collection (displays, gift shop and archives). Fortunately the owners Marsha and Martin Hemm were patient, flexible, and willing to explore different solutions. In addition the Proctor Library, Historical Society, Selectboard, and School Board went to extraordinary lengths to attempt to raise the $150,000 to substantially fill the funding gap. The timing was challenging and when we were unable to reach our fundraising goal, the archives and stone library were sold to the University of Pennsylvania. Although we would have preferred these materials stay with the museum in Vermont, Penn has excellent archival facilities and is eager to collaborate with the museum.
The Trust was able to save over 500 boxes of more recent uninventoried archival material, which includes purchase orders, sales receipts, accident reports and project reports. Much of this material was damaged and we are raising funds to conserve them and make them available for research.
By December 16, 2014, The Trust had raised the necessary funds and completed the acquisition of the Marble Mill Building. Additionally, a new non-profit, the Vermont Marble Museum, Inc., was established to own and operate the museum.
The Trust is grateful for support from the Johnson Family Foundation, Alma Gibbs Donchian Foundation, and the Walter Cerf Fund at the Vermont Community Foundation, an anonymous foundation, and many generous individuals. In addition the Proctor Library, Historical Society, Selectboard, and School Board have all gone to extraordinary lengths to assist our efforts.
Vermont Marble Company History
Reportedly the largest museum in the world dedicated to the production of marble, the Vermont Marble Museum is located in what was once the main manufacturing plant of the Vermont Marble Company. During its heyday between 1880 and the 1930’s, the Vermont Marble Company grew to be not only the largest marble manufacturer in the world but one of the world’s largest companies. It employed over 5000 people, had offices in most major U.S. cities and owned the rights to all the marble in Vermont, Tennessee, Colorado and Alaska. Vermont businessman and politician Redfield Proctor, Sr. founded the Vermont Marble Company in 1880 when he merged several smaller Vermont marble manufacturing operations into one entity.
The Town of Proctor, established by an act of the Vermont legislature in 1886, was carved out of what was once the Town of Rutland to serve as the Vermont Marble Company headquarters and company town. Most of the laborers and management lived in Proctor and the municipal buildings, ancillary industrial and office buildings as well as the bridge across the Otter Creek were all made of marble. The town is still dominated by the large manufacturing plant located at Sunderland Falls, which once provided the waterpower to drive the machinery.
The company expanded rapidly until the 1930’s when demand declined due to the Great Depression. During World War II, the equipment was modified to produce metal for the war effort but marble production resumed after the war. In 1950, the Company manufactured the marble for the United Nations headquarters in New York City, one of the largest commissions in its history.
The Vermont Marble Company’s facilities in Proctor were purchased by OMYA, Inc. in 1976, but after gradually divesting itself of many buildings in Proctor, OMYA, Inc. moved its headquarters to Ohio in 2007.
There are prominent buildings and monuments made from Vermont marble all over the United States and the world including many significant Washington, D.C. structures including:
• Thomas Jefferson Memorial
• US Supreme Court Building
• Rayburn House Office Building
• Russell Senate Office Building
• Arlington Memorial Amphitheater
• Arlington National Cemetery
• Tomb of the Unknown Soldier – the marble sarcophagus came from the company’s Colorado quarry but the carving was done in Proctor and the tomb base is Vermont marble
• National Gallery West Building – includes Vermont marble on the interior
• Union Station is constructed from Vermont granite with a Vermont marble base
• U.S. Capitol – West Elevation Balustrade
• Memorial Continental Hall – DAR Building (on the Ellipse, adjacent to the White House)
• District of Columbia War Memorial (WW I)
• Washington DC Municipal Building, 1350 Pennsylvania Ave.
• White House Remodeling, 1950’s
• Lincoln Memorial – Marble form the VMC’s Yule Colorado Quarry
• Arlington Memorial Bridge
• Smithsonian Museum of Natural History
• US Department of Agriculture, North Buildings
The Vermont Marble Museum Today
The museum began as an exhibit and show room for Vermont Marble Company’s products. Today the museum includes:
• Large panels of marble from the Vermont Marble Company’s quarries in Vermont and elsewhere
• An exhibit on the creation of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier
• The Hall of Presidents – relief sculptures of US presidents up to George Bush Sr.
• The Geology Room showing the formation of rock, including marble
• A rare library of marble samples from around the world
• Photographs of monuments, quarries and quarrying techniques
• A theater with two films – one on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and another on the history of the Vermont Marble Company
• Pre-construction mockups of sections of two well-known buildings made of Vermont marble – the U.S. Supreme Court and the Beinecke Library at Yale University
• Marble sculptures, a display on the “pointing” technique used to carve large images
• An exhibit on how crushed marble is used in everyday products
Also included in the Museum holdings, though not currently accessible to the public, are extensive paper archives and photographs documenting the early years of the Vermont Marble Company operations.
Make a Donation Now
We at the Preservation Trust of Vermont have a lot of work ahead of us, and as always, we depend on your support to make it happen. Make to help us raise the funds necessary to purchase the building. Visit our Join and Support page to make a donation. We appreciate your support!