PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Rhode Islanders are getting a rare opportunity to own a piece of state history, as chunks of marble from the State House are up for sale.
Farm Fresh RI, a nonprofit food hub, is selling the marble pieces after discovering them in 2019 while testing soil at its facility on Sims Avenue in Providence.
“We wanted to be really good stewards of the environment, so we did a lot of environmental remediation and that included ripping up all of the asphalt that the current structure was on,” said Nikki Ayres, Farm Fresh RI director of giving.
The digging had just started when crews began pulling up an abundance of white marble. The long buried secrets of the property were quickly revealed.
“We thought, ‘Where did this all come from,'” Ayres said. “We were able to really easily find an article from the Providence Journal from 1898 that said our exact site was where all of the marble for the State House was cut.”
The property had once been owned by Norcross Bros., who oversaw construction of the State House. At the time, it was common practice to dig a hole and throw in all the pieces she described as “bad cuts” that were unusable.
“Usually what we found is that some of it had a strike in it and it cracked,” Ayres said. “For whatever reason they weren’t able to use it.”
The Farm Fresh RI mission to expand its facility quickly turned into a mission to preserve history. More than 40 pieces of reclaimed stone was used as benches in the green-space areas surrounding its headquarters.
One long slab of the stone was turned into a public-art installation in front of the building. Newport artist Nicholas Benson carved the work during one of the popular farmers markets at Farm Fresh RI.
Now, the nonprofit is using the remaining buried marble to fundraise for its programs.
“The process has been really, really fun,” Ayre said. “We have a great committee on board — of board members and community members — who have been really excited about this since day one.”
Ayre said staff has been working to catalog and price the stone since December, and they’re working with local artists to screen print, sculp and carved out, which will also be for sale.
The marble pieces for sale range in size from several inches to several feet, and cost anywhere from $5 to $500.
The public can view the marble from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Thursday during a free open house at the Farm Fresh RI headquarters. Sales will be held next Friday, Saturday and Sunday.