Sailing the coast of Maine since the early 1980s, I occasionally noticed large granite wharves on some of the islands. I wondered who built them and why they were on what seemed to be wild, uninhabited islands. One day in the summer of 1988, while waiting for the fog to lift, I rowed ashore to explore one of these islands. I found nothing so I assumed that the island had been uninhabited forever. But as I sailed back to Portland, I made note of all the islands with these large granite wharves. My research that winter revealed that these islands had been quarried for granite, and that at one time quarrying for granite had been a huge industry in Maine.
In the summers of 1989 and 1990, I visited every quarry island that could be accessed only by boat, from Port Clyde to east of Jonesport. Some had been small, one-man motions, others had been large, two-thousand-man sites.
Photographs, like archaeological remains, are often incomplete. They address what’s in front of the lens, but they can only suggest the entirety of what was once present. These photographs record the physical traces of the granite industry that flourished on the islands off the coast of Maine during the Beaux-Arts building boom between the Civil War and World War I.