Quincy, “The Granite City,” derived its identity and nineteenth-century prosperity from the stone quarried in its western hills. The Mount Wollaston Colony (1626) at Merrymount (part of Quincy) predated the English settlement of Boston. In 1640 the town of Braintree was established; the name for this section of Braintree was changed to Quincy in 1792. The “Braintree Furnace” (1643–1645), on what is now Furnace Brook, successfully produced pig iron until 1647, when the iron furnace at Saugus eclipsed it. The birthplace of two presidents, John Adams and John Quincy Adams (both QU1), the town figured in national politics in the early years of the Republic.
Quincy residents became aware of the potential of its major natural asset, granite, as early as 1715, when it began the licensing of quarries. The construction in 1826 of the so-called Granite Railway (QU15), a four-mile incline between the quarries and tidewater transport, inaugurated the extensive development of this stone in West Quincy. Soon a workers' village developed around the quarries and recent immigrants flocked to the area to cut the stone. Granite, primarily from Quincy, soon became a dominant building material in the Boston region, inspiring a reductive architectural style of simple elements and minimal ornament, well represented by Quincy's own United First Parish Church (QU8). Granite remained a popular building stone until the Great Boston Fire of 1872 demonstrated the fragility of the material under extreme conditions, signaling the demise of the building product. Along the coast, fishing (based in the Germantown area of Quincy) and shipbuilding remained important. The arrival of the Old Colony Railroad in 1845 opened Quincy to suburban pressures, especially in the northern sections. In the middle third of the nineteenth century, shoemaking emerged as a challenge to the dominance of granite as the centerpiece of the local economy. From the 1884 establishment of the Fore River Engine Company grew the massive Fore River Shipyard (QU2), eventually acquired by the Bethlehem Steel Corporation in 1913. Subsequently expanded, the shipyards remained the economic engine of the community until the 1980s, when the Fore River development was closed.
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