The Colorado town’s claim to fame is the largest single piece of marble ever quarried was from here. The 100-ton block created the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and marble from the local quarries was used in the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C.
While silver and gold were found in surrounding mountains, the town’s economy was dependent on the marble found in the late 1800s.
My buddy Darrel and I made the trek to Marble to hike to Crystal Mill.
Before the hike we wandered around massive chunks of stone we found along Crystal River. The massive slabs were marble rejects and they are oddly fascinating.
We picked up a self-guided tour map of the Marble Mill Site. You can still see some of the mills, shops, pillars, and remnants of the avalanche and fire protective walls. Marble’s boom started in 1905 with the Colorado-Yule Marble Company. The site we wandered around was the large marble processing mill. Colorado-Yule would remove blocks from the marble quarry about 3.9 miles away (there is no public access to the quarry) and bring them to the processing mill to be carved and then shipped throughout the country.
Here’s a little history on Marble. Before white people arrived in the Crystal River Valley, the area was sacred hunting ground to Ute Indians. By the 1870s, gold and silver prospectors filtered over Schofield Pass from Crested Butte and began settling in the rugged terrain between Lead King Basin and Beaver Lake, eventual township sites of Clarence and Marble. There was some silver in the mountains but it was marble that was big find in the present day town of Marble. In the early 1900s, Marble boasted it has the world’s largest marble deposit and the world’s largest building under one roof. With the marble boom, by 1915, Marble had a population of about 1,500. But during World War I, the market for marble collapsed and Marble’s population dropped to about 50. The quarries reopened in 1922 to provide 500 train car loads of marble to build the Lincoln Memorial and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in 1926. World War II brought another blow to Marble. By 1943, the railroad tracks were taken up and the machinery was sold for scrap metal. In the 50s and 60s, only a few hardy souls lived in the quiet solitude of Marble. It was reincorporated in 1972 to fight the development of a ski area on the southwest-facing slopes above the town. A 2-mile long ski lift and empty 50-unit condo building remain. Some say it’s the Ute’s curse that greedy whites will never prosper here. The marble quarry reopened in 1990 with a handful of workers.
While Crystal Mill gets top billing in this area, don’t miss out on exploring the town, its “marblelous” history, and a little time by the river.