lime kilns

Near Victoria, BC: the lime kiln of the Atkins Brothers Silica Lime Brick Company, near the boundary of View Royal and Langford. Enough lime was being produced to justify a spur line from the E.&N. Railway, shipping a thousand barrels up island in 1899. Lime operations continued until the 1930s when the land was purchased by the Department of National Defence. Robert Duffus: 1977 photograph

There is a Lime Kiln Lake near Pincher Creek in southern Alberta, the Lime Kiln Trail in Ottawa, the Hart Road Lime Kiln Conservation Plan in View Royal near Victoria BC, Lime Kiln Bay in New Brunswick – when you start to look, they were everywhere.  

Funny how things channel sometimes.  Last night was reading Agatha Christie's The Disappearance of Mr Davenheim, written sometime before 1924, where Mr Davenheim walks to the post office and vanishes.  However, there is a lake, a path, a gate, and beyond it, a lime kiln.  Ah.  This is how a body can be disposed of – throw it into quicklime which will dissolve everything except Mr Davenheim's distinctive gold and diamond ring – well, it didn't happen that way, but it does indicate that lime kilns were local, ubiquitous and in use.  Every town, every estate, every builder probably had one, for lime is essential for all cement work: mortar, parging, grout, stucco, pathways, foundations, floors.  It was also used as fertilizer and so essential to agriculture.

I'm closing in on the process: you burn limestone, or calcium carbonate (CaCO3), which gives you quicklime, or calcium oxide (CaO).  You mix quicklime with water to get slaked lime, or calcium hydroxide (Ca[OH]2).  This is used in cementitious building products, including whitewash, which is slaked lime and chalk.  Over time as slaked lime dries and hardens, it loses water and absorbs carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, reverting back to limestone.   What a process.