Although this old limestone quarry still boasts a massive stone crusher, and an underground tunnel, the truly interesting part of its story lies after the quarry was decommissioned.
Having been decommissioned as a quarry at the beginning of World War I and converted into a munitions factory, Split Rock Quarry, at its prime, produced as much as a quarter of American TNT used in the conflict The danger of fires was constant but manageable, as the plant was always staffed by 300 or more trained firefighters and watchmen.
But on the night of July 2, 1918, a fire broke out and quickly got out of hand. Wind whipped the small blaze into a bonfire. When firehoses began failing, the plastic melted, and the men began to run for cover. As the flames reached the toxic chemicals and ammunitions, a blast 100 feet tall erupted, throwing men into the air.
Fifty men were killed, some in the flames, some upon impact, and others without a scratch, having been poisoned by gasses. Even then, further disaster had been averted. For on that night, had the winds not changed, the 1.5 million pounds of explosives stored up hill would have been ignited. The entire city of Syracuse—and half of Onondaga county—could have been destroyed that night.
Today, the quarry sits, eerie and gray, with little left of its structures. Cliffs and gullies show the remnants of the mine. Bike trails weave along the 1,000 acres of land. The only remaining structure is the old rock crusher, and the tunnel that runs through the cliff behind it. The quarry is public use land.
Know Before You Go
There is an entrance to the quarry that has signs stating the rules. There are no obvious parking signs or a paved lot there but there also isn't signs saying not to park in the clearing. Set your GPS for 3971 Onodaga Blvd and park at the dead end beyond the houses.