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Big Gun Quarry earns its place in history

California Granite Company now listed in national register
By: Jon Brines, Placer Herald Correspondent
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The California Granite Company, also known as the Big Gun Quarry, was added on July 3 to the National Register of Historic Places. The Pacific Street landmark was nominated earlier this year by the Rocklin Heritage Committee, a group of residents concerned about the fate of the century-old landmark. ?Everyone in our group is absolutely elated and ecstatic that we?ve been able to save the quarry and get it listed on the National Register,? Rocklin Heritage Committee spokesperson Carol Ellis said. ?It?s the reason Rocklin is called Rocklin.? Ellis prepared the nomination paperwork with the help of others, including Rocklin Historical Society Past President Gene Johnson. The national listing includes not only the quarry, but also the surrounding lot, work sheds and even the Ruhkala saw once used at the site. The saw is considered a contributing resource that will help historians understand how the granite was cut. ?That particular quarry was the largest quarry that employed 100 men at one point,? Ellis said. ?It was the biggest and the best. It?s definitely the one we?d want saved.? The Rocklin Historical Society considers the site, which has the only remaining work buildings, as representative of 150 years of granite mining in the city. Those work sheds were used to process stone for the State Capitol building as well as the iconic Transamerica building in San Francisco and other California landmarks. Skip Gebel, president of the Rocklin Historical Society, said the real winner is the people who started the quarry. ?It commends the pioneers of the greater Rocklin area, men and women with strong conviction and courage, who prevailed in a new society in a new life in which they were instrumental in controlling,? Gebel said. The prestigious National Parks designation is primarily honorific, however. It does not bar property owners from selling or even making changes to the original structures, including demolition which was approved by the city last September. The scheduled work was delayed after the Rocklin Heritage Committee, asked the city to conduct a thorough Environmental Impact Report before proceeding with demolition. That report has not been completed. Jay Correia, a historian with the California State Office of Historic Preservation, said the listing will do little to protect the site from demolition. ?In the Environmental Impact Report process the city could acknowledge it as historic, but then say overriding considerations dictate that they still want to knock it down,? Correia said. Ellis agrees the listing will not stop either the sale or development of the site, but hopes it will help preserve it. ?Whoever owns it or buys it will have to take into consideration its historic importance,? Ellis said. The news is overshadowed by the statewide abolition of redevelopment agencies, including Rocklin?s agency, which used its funds to buy the quarry site for $1 million. Now the state wants the site, along with other Rocklin properties purchased with redevelopment money, sold to help fill the state?s budget gap. City Manager Rick Horst said the city hasn?t received official notification of the designation. According to registry officials, that notification will most likely come in the form of a letter to the city next week. ?Based on the assumption that the designation has been made, we accept it. What bearing this designation has on the property under the state mandate to liquidate the property remains to be seen,? Horst said. City Council member Scott Yuill expressed concern for the future of the site. ?I hope the designation doesn?t reduce its value ? shortchanging taxpayers. It always makes me nervous when a government agency can impose itself on property without public input or an owner?s say. That?s a slippery slope that should concern everyone,? Yuill said. Members of the Rocklin Historical Society intend to hold a celebration of the designation as well as a historical marker at the site. The California Granite Company is the first Rocklin site to be listed on the National Register of Historic Places. A marker off Front Street honoring Rocklin?s involvement in the first transcontinental railroad is a state designation. ________ Recent Big Gun Quarry History Nov. 2010: Rocklin Redevelopment Agency buys quarry for $1 million Sept. 2011: City approves demolition Oct. 2011: City halts demo; Environmental Report due Jan. 2012: Redevelopment Agency dissolved by state July 2012: Named to the National Register of Historic Places