Before Arabia Mountain was a beloved nature preserve, it was owned by the quarry industry. The Davidson family had a massive granite quarry operation in and around Lithonia, including Arabia Mountain. At one point, the quarry was one of the largest in the world. While the granite in other properties were carved and blasted away, the Davidson family had not yet touched Arabia Mountain by the early 1970’s, when it became clear that younger generations were not interested in taking over the family business. That is when the Davidson graciously gifted the land to DeKalb County, leading us to the protected landscape we know and love today.
The Davidson quarry made money through a variety of different ways over the years. John Keay Davidson, a Scottish immigrant to the United States, built his quarry empire initially out of selling construction materials and curbstone. Around the time of the Great Depression, the quarry operation expanded into chicken grit (chickens rely on small rocks to digest their food, creating an agricultural market for the granite grit).
Although Davidson would spend most of his life in the United States, the quarry kept ties to Scotland. Skilled Scottish quarry workers would travel to work at the quarry in America in the winter before returning to Europe for work on Scottish quarries in the summer. The annual cross-Atlantic travel allowed these skilled tradesmen to avoid the frigid cold of the Scottish winter and the scorching heat of the Georgia summer.
Watch the video above to catch a glimpse of the granite quarry operation that once boomed in what is now the National Heritage Area. Please note that the video is an artifact from the past where individual perspectives do not necessarily align with current thinking. The Arabia Mountain Heritage Area Alliance shares this not as an endorsement of these views, but rather a window into an industry that shaped this region.