North Front Street at Limekiln Alley, Wrightsville
Borough of Wrightsville
These large stone structures are lime kilns and are remnants of a very important nineteenth-century Wrightsville Industry. The structures are constructed of heavy stone with brick relieving arches and iron lintels that support the upper stone structure. The kilns were abandoned almost 100 years ago, but their form and function are apparent as so much of their original fabric remains. Only the two northernmost kilns have collapsed and are missing a large quantity of original stone.
Despite their condition, enough remains of the structures to understand a little of the process of burning limestone to create powdered lime. Few nineteenth-century industrial lime kilns survive across the country and almost none of them have been adequately studied.
A lime kiln is used to produce quicklime, hydrated lime, unslaked lime or slaked lime, by the calcinations of calcium carbonate or limestone. Heating the limestone drives off carbon dioxide from the limestone to produce lime. Lime is useful in different ways such as fertilizer, building materials, or lime-washing buildings. It was regarded as a cleansing product and was used not only on farm buildings but also on factories after 1800.
The Wrightsville Lime Kilns were part of a thriving limestone-burning operation established by the Kerr family in 1848. The lime produced by the Wrightsville Lime Kilns was known for its whiteness and purity. Historic maps indicate that the kilns ceased operation by 1909. The kilns were donated to the Borough of Wrightsville in 2000.
In the early 200s the Historic Wrightsville, Borough of Wrightsville, and Rivertowns worked in partnership to restore the lime kilns. Historic Wrightsville received a Historic Preservation Grant from the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission in 2004 to study the history and current condition of the kilns to ascertain the possibility of preserving these important features to the Wrightsville landscape.
Where to find them
The Wrightsville Lime Kilns are located on North Front Street at Limekiln Alley in Wrightsville, PA. Click here for the exact GPS location.
1 Bridge, 2 Counties Tour Book
This was an edited excerpt from the Historic Preservation Trust of Lancaster County’s 2006 1 Bridge, 2 Counties architectural tour book.