MARBLE, COLO. -- The quarry that produced the marble for the exterior of the Lincoln Memorial, the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and many other landmarks in the United States is operating again for the first time in 49 years.

This small, isolated town is welcoming back Colorado Yule Marble Co., once the state's biggest employer, but cautiously. Residents hope the operation won't greatly disturb the peace that descended when the quarry closed in 1941, victim of a dwindling demand for marble at the beginning of World War II.

Colorado Yule's machinery had been sold for scrap to help with the war effort. Since then, the marble processing mill, four miles below the quarry in the town of Marble, has fallen victim to avalanches, and the quarry itself has been used only as a destination for hikers and owners of four-wheel-drive vehicles.

Mining engineer Stacy Dunn was looking for natural gas reserves about two years ago when he found the Colorado Yule quarry, named after the Yule Creek that runs nearby. He thought there might be a business opportunity in the rock.

The quarry, of course, was no secret. Many of the 42 to 45 year-round residents of Marble are sculptors. For years they have worked with the pure white stone that is still scattered along the area's roads, waste from the huge blocks quarried in the old days.

Dunn's market research showed that the price of top-quality marble on world markets had increased more than eightfold over a decade, according to Rusty Sherwood, Colorado Yule marketing vice president.

Colorado Yule and two quarries in Carrara, Italy, are the source of the purest white marble in the world, according to Ferdinando Borghetti, the Italian quarry master overseeing the reopened operation. The Italian quarries are running out of marble, Borghetti said, increasing demand for the Colorado product.

Financing for the Colorado Yule project came largely from $5 million from Hambro Group Investors Ltd., a group backed by Hambro Bank of London, Sherwood said. Dunn died before the quarry was reopened; his widow, Linda, is among those running the new company. The quarry has been leased for 70 years from its owner, Vermont Marble Co. of Proctor, Vt.

Sherwood said Colorado Yule expects to sell most of its stone overseas, mostly because the facilities needed to process it into usable form are in Europe.

"This country has been a primary importer" of marble, he said. "For the first time, there is going to be a company in the United States that is going to be a primary exporter of the raw marble material. We're anticipating that some 70 to 75 percent of what we're producing will be sent overseas."

In its heyday, Colorado Yule employed 1,200 people in its quarrying operation and its processing mill in town.

The mill, which will not reopen, was the factory where marble was converted into such things as construction material, counter tops and tombstones.

The new company will employ no more than 25 people in its marble operations. The reduction is the result of changes in technology in the quarry process. It's also a result of the town's uneasy embrace of the new company -- the citizens vetoed a new mill.

Bob Hastie, who has been mayor of Marble since August, described the reopening of the quarry as a mixed blessing because of the changes that have taken place during the years since the quarry has been out of business.

"This is a very small isolated community, and most of us that live up here moved up here for the isolation. We enjoy the peace and quiet of the mountain community."

"Peace and quiet" in Marble means real quiet. It's about 60 miles west and south of Aspen, and about 40 miles from the nearest interstate highway. Many of the inhabitants work in a coal mine in Redstone, about 15 miles away.

Said Hastie about the reopened quarry: "It's kind of a good thing, but we're also intimidated by it. The majority of us want to have some kind of control over what happens to the town of Marble as Colorado Yule Marble Company becomes more and more successful."

Their first control was to refuse to allow milling operations in their town. The second was to limit production to 250,000 cubic feet of marble blocks per year.

Sherwood said that the different grades of marble harvested from the quarry will sell for $22 to $69 a cubic foot. He estimates revenue from the marble at between $5 million and $15 million a year, and said there is a 300-year supply.

Even with close controls, there will be changes in Marble.

Summer tourists will no longer have to hike or use four-wheel-drive vehicles to see an abandoned quarry. Now, with the improved road, any car will be able to drive to the new 20-vehicle tourist parking lot and its occupants will be able to see an operating quarry, which is sure to attract more visitors.

Also, sculptors and potential customers are already appearing for a chance to see the marble they've only heard about.

Not everyone in Marble feels that growth is bad for the community.

Elmar Bair, 91, was one of the men who cut the 56-ton block used in the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

"I think that there's something wrong with these people when they didn't let them build the mill right here -- the best thing that would have ever happened to Marble again," said Bair.

When the quarry closed down in 1941, Bair bought some of the nearby land, which included the right of way up the road. And, when he sold the land, he kept the road right of way, "so, if they ever did want to come back, they'd have a right of way without paying three or four guys several million to get back."

He gave the new company the right of way so he could once again see marble in Marble. He also rode in the truck that brought the first new piece out of the quarry and down to town during a big celebration Sept. 15.

Even though he's "tickled" to see the quarry back in operation, Bair is still disappointed because the town wouldn't let Colorado Yule operate a mill.

"This is where it should have been," he said, because it would have saved the quarry money. "It helped the old town. It brought in some work for them and all, but that's the history of people nowadays. Somebody wants to do something, there's always three guys {to} stop them." @CPATION: The Colorado Yule quarry in Marble, Colo., is operating again for the first time in 49 years.