I was at Canoe Creek State Park in central Pennsylvania on Tuesday evening for our local Audubon society‘s annual picnic. After supper, most of us stuck around for a stroll, which took as as far as the old lime kilns. Though the light wasn’t great, a few of my photos turned out O.K.
Here’s a photo from an earlier visit showing all the kilns. For a top view, see this webpage from a site devoted to industrial archaeology. Its succinct description of their function is worth quoting as well:
The production of lime was critical for the iron furnaces. Limestone was utilized as a flux, removing impurities from the raw ore. The lime was created by dumping quarried limestone ore on top of burning charcoal, or in later years, burning coal. Additional layers of coal and limestone would be added to the kiln, making the operation a continuous activity. The limestone was transported by side rail from the nearby quarries to the kilns, and then by main rail to the outside buyers.
These are well-maintained ruins; only the last of the six kilns is gated and full of debris.
The patchy, crumbling concrete walls of the kilns are, to me, their most attractive feature. Some plants have begun to grow in the cracks, though the kilns have a long while to go before they will be as green as the ruined Mayan or Cambodian Buddhist temples whose shapes they evoke.
I like to think that these kilns helped, in a very small way, to fuel the development of modern American poetry, inasmuch as they were operated by the Blair Limestone Company, which was a subsidiary of Jones and Laughlin Steel Company. James Laughlin, heir to the Laughlin Steel fortune, founded, ran and bankrolled one of the most important literary presses of the 20th Century, New Directions Publishing Corp.
Writers whose early work was published in [New Directions] anthologies include Dylan Thomas, Marianne Moore, Wallace Stevens, Thomas Merton, Denise Levertov, James Agee, and Lawrence Ferlinghetti. … New Directions also published many now-famous writers, including Ezra Pound and William Carlos Williams, when they had a hard time finding homes for their work, and Tennessee Williams was published as a poet for the very first time in a New Directions poetry collection.
I did find one interesting piece of writing scratched into the concrete in front of the kilns: