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Museum pays tribute to Vt.-N.Y. slate workers

The site of the present Slate Valley Museum in Granville, N.Y., and adjacent streets became home as row houses were built similar to those in Wales. Nearby homes were run as boarding houses, particularly by the Slovaks who waited to send for their families until they were established. They felt at home in a valley between two mountains, much like their native land.

The arrival of these peoples brought a great diversity of cultures to the Slate Valley. Although native languages and customs were often maintained in homes and neighborhoods and among church congregations, by the 1900s children were encouraged to become part of their "new country."

World War I, the Great Depression of 1929 and World War II all took a toll on the slate industry and the economy of the area in general. During World War II, the slate industry virtually shut down because so much manpower was lost to the armed forces and defense industries. Several who left their communities did not return.

After the war many changes began which would end up creating a resurgence in the slate business. Methods of quarrying improved with the advent of more advanced mechanization, greatly increasing production. Methods of shipping also saw significant advances. The industry has progressed much to the credit of all the communities in the Slate Valley, and to the credit of all the workers who developed slate quarrying from its very beginnings. First the Welsh brought their skills here from a country where many were denied a future in quarrying. Others developed their skills with diligence and hard work. Pride in their work and a strong desire to improve their lives motivated them.

The Slate Valley Museum has been established, in part, to pay tribute to these workers and their families and to preserve their way of life and their many contributions to the fabric of human history. The museum is open (Memorial Day to Labor Day) Tuesday through Saturday: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. and Sunday 1 p.m.-4 p.m. After Labor Day, the museum is open Tuesday through Friday: 1 p.m.-5 p.m. and Saturday 10 a.m.-4 p.m.

Directions: From Addison County, take Vt. Route 22A south into New York to the blinking light at the junction with Route 22. Turn left on Route 22 (south) to the intersection with stop light at junctions of Route 22 and Route 149. Then, turn left (at light) onto Church Street (County Route 26). A McDonalds Restaurant will be on your left as you turn onto Church Street. Follow Church Street. Cross a small bridge then turn left on Water Street. The museum is ahead.

Special thanks to the staff of the Slate Valley Museum for this article.

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