The immigrants who worked in the quarries were given one unusual perk: each of them received one block of granite for their very own. Many chose to work on their own tombstones, creating a lasting tribute to the handiwork of men who mostly toiled and died for monuments to others.
The enormous Hope Cemetery (224 E. Montpelier Rd., 802/476-6245, www.ci.barre.vt.us , dawn–dusk, tours available upon request, $5 adults, $3 seniors) is now a giant open-air sculpture gallery, with more than 10,000 gray granite headstones carved with art deco lettering and intricate representations of flowers, ships, and religious symbols. The town still administers burials here—with the only stipulation being that the headstones must be made of Barre Gray.
In modern times, residents have pre-ordered more and more fanciful markers, such as a granite soccer ball, a granite armchair, and an actual-size granite race car. Some stones even contain life-sized figures, such as the touching carving of a man and woman in adjoining beds reaching out to clasp hands for eternity. It’s impossible to walk among them without contemplating a sculpture for your own plot.