Near the main entrance to the University of California, Santa Cruz lies the Cowell Lime Works Historic District. We recently wrote about about the regions lime history and how giant stone kilns called pot kilns were the heart of lime-manufacturing operations. In this post we will talk about the continuous kiln that lies on the UCSC campus just up from the main entrance.
The continuous kiln is the oldest structure in the historic district that has been positively dated. It was built in 1861 on the eve of the Civil War. Also known as a perpetual kiln, patent kiln, or vertical shaft kiln, it was originally somewhat taller than it is now, and there was a trestle to carry ore cars filled with limerock up to the top.
As the name implies, it operated continuously—theoretically for days, weeks, or even months. There is a cylindrical shaft down through the center of the kiln and permanent fire boxes on each side. As the finished lime was removed from the tiny doorway at the bottom, the load shifted downward, exposing another batch of rock to the heat of the fire. The kiln saved energy by not cooling down and heating up again for each batch (like the pot kilns). It was a technological marvel at the time. Unfortunately, the kiln did not work as well as was hoped due to peculiarities of the local limerock. The coarse-grained stone tended to crumble during the downward movement and clog the kiln.
Take the Self-Guided Mobile Tour
This piece is part of UCSC Lime Kilns Tour by Frank Perry on behalf of The Friends of the Cowell Lime Works Historic District. Download the free app with many tours of the Santa Cruz area and beyond.
The content for the AppTour was prepared by The Friends of the Cowell Lime Works Historic District, University of California, Santa Cruz, and is © 2015 by The Friends. Much of the information is from the book, Lime Kiln Legacies: The History of the Lime Industry in Santa Cruz County. The book can be purchased at the Museum of Art and History in person or on-line. It’s also available through Amazon.com.
During this tour you will see that some of the historic buildings have been put to modern uses by the University. Others remain unused but are gradually being restored with private gifts of funding and materials. For more information on how to help, contact the Friends of the Cowell Lime Works Historic District. This UCSC friends group is dedicated to researching, preserving, and teaching about the history of this historic site.
- Lime Kiln Legacies: The History of the Lime Industry in Santa Cruz County, by Frank A. Perry, Robert W. Piwarzyk, Michael D. Luther, Alverda Orlando, Allan Molho, and Sierra L. Perry. Published by the Santa Cruz Museum of Art and History; 2007.