A Tour of Granite Quarries – Griffith Quarry, Penryn, CA and Rocklin, CA

This post was written by jd on November 11, 2011
Posted Under: Education,Hiking,History

By Judy Pinegar

John and I wanted some exercise so we went to Griffith Quarry Park and Museum in Penryn, CA.  This site is listed on both the National Register of Historic Places and the California Landmark Program. The surrounding 23-acre park contains ruins of the first polishing mill built in California and some of the quarry holes from which the unique Penryn granite was taken. It is a wooded area with trails both close to and wider around two large former quarries. The walk starts at the parking lot, where the museum is the same building that used to house the Quarry Office, and the parking lot itself used to be the main Yard and polishing buildings.

Here is a picture of what it looked like circa 1881.

Click on picture to enlarge

As we walked John took pictures of several areas of interest in the park.


Picture 1 of 6

Office and museum

Click on picture to enlarge. Click on picture to return to page.

The Penryn stone is dark gray biotite granite, uniform in color, and there was also “black granite,” a very dark granite one mile east of Penryn.  This stone is used mainly for cemetery monuments and buildings.

Then we went to the Museum, and learned more about the quarry, established as Penryn Granite Works, by Welsh immigrant Griffith Griffith in 1864. Mr. Griffith formerly worked in the famous slate quarries in Penrhyn, Wales. He quarried granite at Folsom, but in 1864 he came to Penryn, which he named after his Welsh home. Here he remained, and he and his descendants quarried granite from that time until about 1906. The museum contains some of the original office furniture of the Penryn Granite Works and information on the Griffith family, the granite industry, and the history of the Penryn-Loomis Basin area. While there, talking to the volunteer we heard about the Rocklin History Museum, which had some old mining tools in the basement.

Since that is just a few miles down Taylor Road, we went there next, where they display Rocklin’s history of “Rock, Rails and Ranches”. They have a timeline of the small settlement of the 1850’s to the thriving community of today. There also was a lot of information about when the Central Pacific Rocklin Roundhouse provided engines to power the Transcontinental Railroad over the high Sierra. When they grew out of space in Rocklin, they moved the whole roundhouse to Roseville along with some of the houses!

Rocklin was the “Granite Capitol of the West” over 40 quarries were in operation at one time. The Rocklin granite quarries were first opened about 1861. The Big Gun granite quarry is located behind the Rocklin City Hall building, and John and I walked across the street to see it. Rocklin stone is biotite granite, lighter in color than the Penryn granite.

For further information:
Rocklin Historical Society Presentation Big Gun Granite Quarry: Past, Present, Future
(Very large PDF file)

Judy Pinegar is a writer and her articles have appeared in numerous publications


View Larger Map to see the location of the quarries

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