Tom Flynn might be a man of few words, but his sly smile and eyes showed his excitement.
Flynn, the fourth generation to be involved with Wallace Quarries and Stanley Flynn Trucking Ltd., and his team of nine employees landed a major contract over the summer that should provide them with more than a year’s work – the Queen’s Marque in Halifax.
“We had heard before the Request for Proposals was issued that they were using sandstone on it, and we knew we wanted to apply,” said Flynn. “There aren’t that many quarries around and we knew they wanted to keep it as local as possible.”
The Queen’s Marque is a defining project, which developers are working on to tell the story of Nova Scotia through form and place by utilizing design, architecture, materials and art to convey the heritage of the province.
Work will continue throughout the winter in the quarry, which will see approximately 22,000 square feet of sandstone panels being used in the building. The panels, said Flynn, are 1×2 feet, at 3.5 inches.
“That’s not too bad for moving them around, and it cuts down on waste,” he said.
The quarry itself started in 1863, or at least that’s the oldest record Flynn can find.
“I’d always heard it was farmers that started it. They were trying to drive fence posts into the ground but couldn’t, because they hit the rock,” he said.
In later years, an American company took over the quarry – some of their sandstone can be found in buildings south of the border – followed by a family from Montreal, which supplied many buildings in Ottawa and Quebec.
“I’m fourth generation, so I was destined to be part of it,” Flynn said, a slight smile starting to form. “My father was the first in my family to have ownership, and that was in the 1990s. The land itself is still partially owned by the Montreal family, or their descendants.”
Flynn said this building is probably the largest in the province the quarry has been involved with in the last 50 years, and the company will be working on getting sandstone from the quarry for a year before it’s needed in the masonry contractor yard.
“We have continued through the winter for the last few years, but we generally don’t quarry in the wintertime,” he said, noting this will be different for them.
Working in the quarry, natural beds and seams need to be found, followed by line drilling a row of holes. Depending on where the bedrock is, those holes are filled with an expansive mortar, which will split the rock over the period of a day.
“I’m excited, but a little nervous too,” Flynn admitted. “This is a lot of rock.”
Over the years, the quarry was a busy spot, being involved in major projects in the early 1900s. However things died out and the quarry was shut down in the ‘70s, before being revitalized again.
The rock that’s extracted from the quarry can find its way anywhere, with Flynn saying Halifax is often busy for work. The United States can be hit or miss, but it can be “really good if they’re trying to match something.”
One of the last large projects involving Wallace Quarries was the Halifax city hall restoration project about five or six years ago.
When it comes to sandstone, there are a couple qualities that stand out that make it the go-to choice.
“It isn’t fake,” said Flynn. “It’s durable. There are a lot of buildings out there that are well over 100 years old now…that’s one of the main reasons.”