Stone Quarries of Mid Atlantic

08 Oct Stone Quarries of Mid Atlantic

Stone quarries have a fairly long and quite interesting history in Virginia and the Mid-Atlantic region of the U.S. About a hundred years ago, most of the quarries were small, locally owned, independent, or family operations in the mid-Atlantic. That started to change in the 1920’s and 1930’s with the foundation of the two stone quarry and construction materials companies that emerged as the two dominant players in the Mid-Atlantic and beyond quarry industry. The history of stone Virginia and the surrounding states belongs to the two behemoths— family-owned Luck Stone and publicly traded Martin Marietta Materials.

Origins of the Largest Family-Owned Quarry – Sunnyside Granite Company Years

Charles Luck, Jr. appeared on the construction materials scene back in 1923 with his purchase of the Richmond, Virginia based Sunnyside Granite Company. This legend in the stone Virginia business went on to run his continuously expanding stone quarry operation for the next long four decades. What started out as Sunnyside Granite in the 1920’s began acquiring other stone quarries as early as 1930 with the purchase of Boscobel Granite Company of Manakin, Virginia. The 1930’s saw technological advances for Charles Luck’s operations when in 1932 his operation first converted to electric power from steam power. In the middle of the 1930’s, Luck started up operations at Charlottesville Stone Corporation, Burkeville Stone Corporation, and Fairfax Quarries. In the forties, Sunnyside Granite aided the Allied war effort by quarrying and shipping critically necessary stone from the Boscobel plant on to Hampton Roads, Virginia military bases.

Luck Quarries is Born

By 1952 Charles Luck III had arrived at the company and the name changed to Luck Quarries, Inc. They expanded to include five plants, one of which was the August County’s first limestone operation. Charles III became president of the ever-growing company while his father took on the role of Chairman of the Board in 1965. In the seventies, Luck again pioneered technology for the industry when it implemented its sales offices’ new computerized ticketing. That same year, Charles Luck, Jr, founder and pioneer in the industry died.

The 1970’s saw additional exciting technological advances for Luck. They opened their first of numerous architectural stone centers in 1976, this one adjacent to their corporate headquarters in Manakin, Virginia. Unique to the crushed stone business, this retail showroom received widespread acclaim. The next year Luck Quarries had developed and implemented unattended and completely automated crushing plants.

Luck Stone Corporation Rises Amid Rapid Expansion

Charles Luck III and company opened up new plants in the eighties at Powhatan, Louisa, Greene, Elkton, Burlington, and Bealeton, Virginia. Their first plant outside of Virginia opened in Burlington, North Carolina. At that time, the company changed its name for the last time to Luck Stone Corporation.

In the 1990’s, Luck Stone had grown to fourteen stone crushing operations, a sand and gravel plant, and six of their signature architectural stone centers, as well as founding Luck Properties. Not satisfied with old school technology, they designed and built the industry’s very first stone loading system that was self-service. They also began using one of the first high technology computer monitoring crushing operations systems in the industry. The end of the decade saw their seventy-fifth anniversary celebration and acquisition of tennis court legendary materials producer Har-Tru/Lee Tennis.

Luck Stone As a Modern Marvel

The latest Luck family member took his place at the helm of the family business in 1999 when Charlie Luck IV became CEO and president. Charles Luck III stayed on as chairman of the board. The rapid expansion continued with the new Pittsboro, North Carolina plant opened with partners 3M. The company finally received the much-deserved designation as legendary in the mid-Atlantic bulk aggregates industry when The History Channel featured it in its quarries documentary on the “Modern Marvels” series.

The rest of their story is history. In the 2000’s, Luck iced their cake with purchases of Northern Virginia’s Spotsylvania and Culpeper operations from Martin Marietta and also the Bull Run Stone facility, with a new Massaponax plant in Spotsylvania County, with the Gilmerton Yard in South Hampton Roads and the South Richmond Quarry, and with additional distribution centers at Berkley Distribution in Norfolk and Toana near Williamsburg.

The Rise of Martin Marietta Materials

Bulk aggregates company Superior Stone began its meteoric rise to fame and fortune, eventually becoming the superpower in the stone quarry world, with its Raleigh, North Carolina founding in 1939. They changed hands and names numerous times over the next five decades, finally becoming incorporated as the Martin Marietta Materials company in 1993. In 1994 they were incorporated on the New York Stock Exchange, while the same year saw them rapidly expanding with important acquisitions in Virginia, South Carolina, and Georgia.

Martin Marietta As Number Two Aggregates Company

The event that made Martin Marietta Materials the number two aggregates producer in the country took place in 1995 with their acquisition of Dravo Corporation. Now they could supply stone and materials to the Gulf of Mexico, the Eastern Seaboard, and the Mississippi River system markets. That same year they completed five additional acquisitions, including a first one in Canada at the Strait of Canso, Nova Scotia.

In 1996 the company achieved full independence from its last parent company, and the group absorbed several smaller operators in the Midwest. A year later, Martin Marietta had gobbled up American Aggregates Corporation of Ohio and Indiana, as well as eight other acquisitions that included quarries making chemical quality limestone for both the utilities and agricultural industries.

Martin Marietta Becomes a Transportation and National Quarry Juggernaut

The stone quarry giant originally from Virginia flexed its powerful muscles again to buy Redland Stone in Texas in 1998, gaining control of an extensive rail transportation network there with the purchase. That same year they bought their first interest in Meridan Aggregates Company (later fully acquired in 2001) which served fourteen western states, and they also acquired eleven other operations before the end of the year. The last year of the twentieth century saw them buy out ten more companies with business operations in Alabama, Mississippi, West Virginia, Arkansas, Louisiana, Tennessee, and Texas.

The company was similarly pioneering major technological advances in the industry. They erected a state of the art ship loading center and aggregates plant in Freeport, the Bahamas, at their Bahamas quarry. That same year 2001 saw them implement a company-wide computer system that allowed them to support growth and access to information through leading technology. They finished the year with thirteen more operations acquired. A milestone was reached when a record twenty-three percent of all their aggregates shipped went via rail or water because of their massive distribution network they had acquired and built up in earlier years.

Martin Marietta has only continued to grow in the subsequent fifteen years. They acquired operations in Alabama, Texas, North Carolina, and Florida in 2002; six more locations in Tennessee and Georgia in 2008; three western U.S. quarries in 2009; a first expansion into Denver, Colorado in 2011; and three Atlanta area quarries of eight hundred million tons reserve in 2014. Two phenomenally automated plants came online in Augusta, Georgia and Weeping Water, Nebraska in 2008.

Martin Marietta achieved its legendary stature with a series of awards it received beginning in 2009. That year Fortune Magazine ranked the company at its coveted number one slot in the “World’s Most Admired Company for the Building Materials Industry.” Martin Marietta then achieved the rank of sixteenth nationally as among the nation’s leading business technology innovators from InformationWeek Elite 100 in 2014.

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