Hurstville Lime Kilns

View of one of the four kilns
View of one of the four kilns
View of the four kilns from the south on Hurstville Road
Photo fo the kilns in the late 1800s
Lime kilns in late 1800s

Visit the Hurstville Lime Kilns to learn more about limestone mortar.  The kilns were once part of the company town Hurstville. 

History of the Hurstville Lime Kilns
In 1870, Alfred Hurst came to the area, having heard of the limestone formations along the banks of the Maquoketa River.  He then found what he considered the best quality limestone rock to produce the whitest, purest, and most adhesive lime in the marketplace.  He constructed a small pot kiln and started producing powder lime.  He then erected the first draw kiln in 1871, with the other 3 following soon after.  In the 1st year, production reached 100 barrels a week, with a total of 3200 barrels for the year. At the company’s peak, the kilns would produce 8000 barrels of lime a day!  

The process used to make lime, then an essential building material, was uncomplicated.  But in the days of hand labor and horses it was nonetheless quite an undertaking.   The process started in the limestone rock quarry.  The men would get the rock into a manageable size so that it could be loaded into mule or horse-drawn rail carts and hauled to the kilns.  The limestone was then unloaded into the top of the kiln where a fire was burning.  The fires burned at 900 degrees Celsius (1650 F).  They kept the fire burning around the clock - 24 hours a day 7 days a week – for most of the year.   Workers were well compensated for their hard work.  In 1899 many workers earned $1.35 a day and rent was only $3 a month.   

When cold weather approached, the fires could not stay hot enough to burn the limestone.  Thus the kilns were not operated in the winter months, but the men were kept busy all winter sawing cord wood to feed the hungry fires, as well as making barrels and feeding cattle.  The kilns used upwards of 100 cords of wood a day, requiring almost 8000 cords of wood a year for each kiln.  Lots of land was needed to provide the wood for the kilns.  In 1878, A. Hurst & Company owned 240 acres of land; eventually at the company’s peak, 3,000 acres of land were owned. 

When heated, limestone breaks down into a powder.  At the base of the kiln was a cooling shed where the lime was removed from the kiln.  After the lime had cooled, workers then packed the lime powder into barrels.  The lime was then shipped to a building site where it would then be mixed with sand and water to create mortar, a material used for buildings before cement and concrete.  

In 1915, Alfred, well into his seventies, fell ill on a trip to Chicago and died.  His death coincided with developments in the building industry that were signaling an end to the lime making business.  Portland cement had been invented the year before and was becoming increasingly popular.  The demand for lime plummeted, and the last time all 4 kilns were fired up at the same time was in 1920.  Timber was being depleted from the land and there was not enough wood to support the lime kilns.  In 1930, with the death of William Hurst, the kilns shut down  

A. Hurst & Company ranked as the largest operation of its kind west of Chicago and boasted of having produced the purest white lime in the nation. 

Hurstville Lime Kiln Reconstruction
For nearly five decades the kilns sat silent. Brush grew up around them as the two middle ones began to crumble. A large community effort and volunteer labor made possible the restoration of the four lime kilns. In 1977 Paul Sagers, an Indian artifacts expert, tried to get the kilns designated as a national historic site. Although his efforts were unsuccessful others joined in with a fund drive to match a $5,000 donation by Maquoketa businessman Ed Kirchhoff. The Hurstville Land and Development company donated the 3 acre kiln site to the Jackson County Historical Society. With $10,000 in hand the Jackson County Historical Society hired a retired mason, Myron Rockwell, to tuck point and restore the north and south kilns. The project was started on November 11, 1981 and completed on June 14, 1985. Continued efforts culminated in a community development block grant that supplied $51,620 in funds coupled with donated labor that resulted in the restoration of the two middle kilns and adjoining walls by Fred Felton Masonry. Nearly 4,000 hours of citizen labor were donated, according to Bob Sheets project coordinator. While work proceeded on the kilns many people worked behind the scenes including: Patrick Costello, the Maquoketa Area Chamber of Commerce, "Doc" Dalchow, Lynn Schnoor, Maquoketa FFA and the Jackson County Historical Society. 

The historic site is owned by the Jackson County Historical Society and is managed by the Jackson County Conservation Board.


Located 2 miles north of Maquoketa on U.S. Highway 61.

Google Map Location

Jackson County Conservation
18670 63rd Street
Maquoketa, IA 52060
PHONE: (563) 652-3783


This 3-acre historic site features a roadside rest area with a picnic shelter.  Interpretive signage tell the visitor the story of the kilns and a stairway allows visitors to walk up around the kilns.  No other facilities available.

Operating Hours & Seasons

This historic site is open to the public year round from 6:00 am - 10:30 pm.

Tours are available to groups or families upon request.  Contact the Jackson County Conservation office at (563) 652-3783 to schedule a tour with an education staff member.