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Award-winning marble returns home to Arnprior

Derek Dunn, Arnprior Chronicle-Guide
October 24, 2017

An important piece of Arnprior geological heritage was quietly returned to town in mid October.

It would come as a surprise to some that Arnprior had several marble quarry sites during most of the 19th century. The stone won international awards and was used in important buildings in the national capital, along with others from Arnprior to Kingston. It can be seen in cemeteries throughout Eastern Ontario.

Local history buff David Forsyth is well aware of the significance of the marble, and in particular several slabs that comprised the doorway to the Tierney Block. Located in what is now an ice cream stand at the corner of Madawaska and John streets, the Tierney Block building was torn down after a fire in 1995. The marble entrance was shipped off to a bone yard; it was supposed to be broken down and sold as fireplace mantels or countertops.

Thanks to Forsyth’s diligence, the pieces were found at Keystone Traditional Masonry on Ashton Station Road near Carleton Place. The owner, James Reid, agreed to sell the marble back to the municipality — following council’s approval — for the price he paid: $2,000. It was returned to Arnprior on Oct. 16.

“I was amazed,” Forsyth said, when he first laid eyes on the Tierney Block marble. “Here I was looking at pieces of a building in the downtown from 1865 to 1995. It’s like finding a few bones or something that disappeared.”

Recalling the railway station loss, Forsyth said Arnprior doesn’t always do a good job of retaining its history. He is pleased to know council wanted the marble. The question is what to do with it. Forsyth would like to see an archway built using the marble for one of the parks in town. Reeve Walter Stack said it would make a fine entrance to a new town hall.

When Forsyth discussed repatriating the marble at a council meeting last summer, he explained billion-year-old “Grenville” marble underlies the town. There are two types; Dark Arnprior and Ottawa Valley. It has “beautiful” lines that made it unique, he said, and the craftsmanship of the high-polished final product was impressive. While it never had the pure whiteness of Michelangelo’s David, the local marble is much more dense than its Italian competitor.

“It was prized internationally. It was the stone to have at that time,” Forsyth said, pointing to the awards it received at conventions in Kingston (1859), Philadelphia (1876), and Paris (1878).

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