NH Rejects Aristotle Onassis Oil Refinery in 1974
Written by J. Dennis Robinson
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Be thankful this holiday that Greek tycoon Aristotle Onassis did not turn Great Bay into the world’s largest oil refinery. Aristotle who? How quickly we forget. In 1974 the most important thing that happened in Seacoast New Hampshire was what did not happen. Tankers did not prepare to offload 400,000 barrels of crude oil daily into a giant pipeline at the Isles of Shoals. (Continued below)
3,500 acres along the shore of Great Bay were not torn up to accommodate the $600,000,000 refinery. Yes, 600 MILLION dollars, and that was back when $2,000 would buy a shiny new Volkswagen Beetle.
Instead, over 1,000 residents of Durham gave a resounding NO to the Onassis plan. They voted against the refinery that threatened the very survival of the state’s fragile seacoast ecosystem. Despite powerful forces and promises of gifts, jobs, and economic prosperity, the town voted against the Olympic Oil Refinery plan. Meldrim Thompson Jr., then governor of NH, was prepared to support Aristotle Onassis all the way to the bank. So was Manchester Union Leader publisher William Loeb, who ran the only statewide daily newspaper with a heavy editorial hand. The powerful trio was defeated at the eleventh hour by a grassroots environmental movement led by three local women.
New Hampshire’s oldest rock
Those three women gathered at the deeply wooded studio of stone cutter and artist Steve Green last week. They were there to give final approval to a huge granite bench designed to memorialize the defeated refinery. Steve Green lives and works down a winding dirt road near an ancient tavern in the wilds of Lee. His road and property are littered with slabs of rock that look like the cast-off pieces from the building of Stonehenge. His home and workshop are works-in-progress, hewn from spare parts in the funky wood-butcher style of the 1960s.
“It’s a big honking bench,” Green says of the 1,500-pound slab of granite. “As benches go, this is an altar.”
Made from “tapestry” granite, Green says the seven-by-three-foot bench can seat six. It was quarried in Milford, NH, sawn in Chelmsford, MA, inscribed in Stratham, and was installed Friday at Wagon Hill Farm, a public park overlooking Little Bay in Durham, NH. The “gneissic rock” is an amalgam of two granite pieces merged millions of years apart. Green estimates that the original rock may date to 650 million years ago.
“I’ve been told it’s the oldest stone in New Hampshire. But before me,” the artist notes wryly, “it was just a rock.”
CONTINUE ONASSIS MEMORIAL
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