Blair Quarries (not the same as Blair’s Quarry)

Walter Blair, the first resident of Piedmont, left his name in several places. The quarry he started in the 1850s, now near the foot of Blair Avenue, is now Dracena Park. Everyone called it Blair’s quarry. In the 1880s and 1890s, the amusement park he created in the canyon of upper Glen Echo Creek was a big deal. That was Blair Park.

This post is about the Blair Quarries, and this photo.


From Calif. State Mining Bureau Bull. 38 (1906), slightly massaged

The pit in this photo was the centerpiece of a rock-crushing district on Moraga Road, just above Mountain View Cemetery, that the state mining bureau described in 1906 as “Blair Quarries.” The main quarry was “near the summit of the hill, about 100 yards up the slope north of the road. It was opened in 1901.”

Just ten years before, that same land was part of Blair Park, “the most pleasant outing-place in the bay counties.” By all accounts (and they all seem to be collected at historyofpiedmont.com), the scenic canyon had been turned into a rustic garden fantasyland that included balloon rides, a bandstand, waterfall, garden maze, playgrounds and a “Venetian canal.”

After Blair’s death in 1888, the park eventually fell into the rapacious hands of the Realty Syndicate, which began to devour the valuable chert of the Franciscan melange zone starting in 1901. So Walter Blair had nothing to do with this quarry. At the time this photo was published, the Mining Bureau reported, “The company is opening a ‘blue rock’ quarry, of metamorphosed sandstone, on the south side of the road, and is tunneling in quest of rock for a quarry 50 yards west of and below the larger Blair quarry.” The Blair sandstone quarry, as far as I can tell, was where the Piedmont Reservoir sits today, at Scenic and Blair Avenues. If anyone can confirm that I would be most grateful.

When the city of Piedmont bought the property in 1913, the main quarry was finished. For a time, the Red Rock Quarry worked part of the site. Eventually the pit was filled in, and now the city’s corporation yard sits there. Today, the scene looks like this from the air:

and like this in the digital elevation map.

I think the photo shows the east face of the pit, about 60 feet high, late on a summer afternoon. Twenty men worked there, loading orecarts on at least four tracks. Fortunately, the cemetery hadn’t expanded as far as it has today, so it wasn’t disturbed by dynamite and dust the way St. Mary Cemetery was by the Bilger Quarry.

The odds are that much of the red chert you see in Piedmonters’ yards came from Blair Quarries.

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