The Limestone Kiln on Winslow Hill, Benezette
Contributed by Jim Burke
Standing majestically in a secluded location on Winslow Hill is a limestone kiln. To most visitors this old stone kiln represents a memorial to the past and a tribute to those ancestors who once lived and farmed on the hill. The Kiln stands about thirty-four feet high and approximately sixteen feet square. The veneer of the kiln is constructed of native cut sandstone and the inside is rounded and lined with fire bricks. The top is open to allow loading the kiln and the exhaust of the burning process. When the kiln was operational there was a trestle from the top of the kiln to the bank behind the kiln. As one views the back of the kiln, you can notice the inserts that supported the bridge. At the base of the kiln is a fire box which reminds one of a large fireplace.
According to James Harrison the kiln was constructed in the early 1930’s for the purpose of producing agriculture lime for farming. Lime is used to neutralize acidic soils to allow healthy crop growth. The limestone was mined nearby at the foot of the hill where the Mt. Pleasant Cemetery is located. It was stripped in an open pit mine that had a minimum amount of cover (about 8′ to 10′). The limestone was transported to the kiln in mining carts that ran on a track to the trestle from the mine to the kiln.
The lime was created in the kiln by alternating layers of limestone and charcoal or coal. Sometimes even tree stumps were placed in the kiln to help produce the needed temperature. The limestone was heated to a high temperature (above 800 degrees C) to decompose the calcium magnesium carbonate rock to form calcium oxide (lime) with the loss of carbon dioxide gas.
In addition, there was also in operation at this site a stone crusher. Crushed stone was sold for base material for roads.
The early settlers to Winslow Hill with the local abundance of both limestone and coal would build a large open fire layering coal and wood with limestone and burn it off to produce agriculture lime. One such site was located near where the fire tower was once located.
The kiln is located on PRIVATE PROPERTY just a short distance from the first Elk outlook as you proceed from Benezette to the top of Winslow Hill.