Proctor Reopens Marble Museum, Celebrates Historic Past

May 22, 2015

The Vermont Marble Museum has gone through its share of ups and downs in recent years. But Saturday, the town of Proctor is celebrating the museum’s grand re-opening with a town-wide gala, including train rides back and forth between Rutland.

The Vermont Marble Museum is located in the heart of Proctor village, in what had been the main manufacturing plant of the Vermont Marble Company.

The company was not only the world’s largest marble manufacturer, but in its heyday in the late 1800s and early 1900s, was one of the world’s largest companies, employing thousands, with offices in most U.S. cities.

“One of the things that I think always surprises people is just the sheer number of buildings and monuments in Washington, D.C., that were built with Vermont Marble,” says Paul Bruhn, executive director of the Preservation Trust of Vermont.

The U.S. Supreme Court, the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, the Thomas Jefferson Memorial, the White House and parts of the U.S. Capitol are just a few examples, he says. “The Vermont Marble Company and its work around Washington and around the nation and even internationally is one of Vermont’s important legacies.”

But demand for marble fell off during the Depression, and after World War II the Vermont Marble Company never really bounced back. A showroom and gift store the company ran remained in operation, however, eventually evolving into a popular tourist destination and museum.

In 2012, Marsha and Martin Hemm, who owned and operated the museum, announced that rising utility costs and other overhead were forcing them to close and sell the museum’s entire collection.

"The Vermont Marble Company and its work around Washington and around the nation, and even internationally, is one of Vermont's important legacies." - Paul Bruhn, Preservation Trust of Vermont

Paul Bruhn says that’s when the Preservation Trust stepped in. “It’s been a very complicated, twisty-turny road," he says.

Thanks to help from generous individuals, grants and other funding, Bruhn says they were able to purchase the 90,000-square-foot building last December for $350,000.   

While he says they were not able to raise enough money to purchase the Hemm’s complete collection of historic documents and the Vermont Marble Company’s stone library, he says the $250,000 they did raise allowed them to purchase most of the museum’s exhibits and artifacts. Items that he hopes will remain on display in Vermont for generations to come.

Marble quarries in Vermont, like the one near Rutland pictured here, have provided stone to countless national landmarks.
Credit Library of Congress

The museum's manager, Linda Doty, says the facility will also create new exhibits, collaborate more with local and state agencies and expand their marketing efforts to ensure the museum remains viable.

Bruhn says the re-opening of the museum is one of many efforts underway in Proctor aimed at helping revitalize the town and celebrate its historic past.