Lime Kiln

Beginning in the early 18th century, lime was a valuable resource in the United States. Harvested lime was used as a soil fertilizer and a water purifier. The extant ruins of the lime kiln on the Goucher campus most likely date back to 1771, when the land was still called Northampton. John Holliday, the first owner of Epsom, mostly sold his lime locally. Henry Chew, the second owner of Epsom, often took his lime to market to sell beginning in the 1830s.

Limestone was hauled by oxen from the quarry and inserted into the top of a cylindrical opening in the kiln. Wood (and later coal) was stacked on metal grates below. Once all of the limestone was packed into the cylindrical shaft, lime kiln workers would ignite the wood. Operating at very high temperatures, the kiln would burn the limestone for approximately one week. Following a week’s cooling period, the powdery burned lime was then removed from the kiln. It was now ready to be hauled to the fields where it was used as a fertilizer, or combined with other ingredients to create mortar and plaster.

The Epsom Farm kiln measures eleven feet high. The winged walls that support the kiln measure fourteen feet wide and eleven feet deep. Proximity to a natural vein of limestone (to use as a quarry) and a large wooded area would have been necessary for the kiln to operate. Though the exact location of Epsom’s limestone quarry is unknown, it is suspected that the quarry was located on the northwest corner of today’s campus, just west of the present day athletic fields.

Lime Kiln After Clearing
View 2

  • Seen from Gully Floor
  • 2018