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Identification:

Preferred Structure Name:
Olema Lime Kilns
Structure Number:
BO1940
Other Structure Name(s):
 
Other Structure Name(s)
1. 
California State Historical Landmark No. 222
Park:
Point Reyes National Seashore
Historic District:
 
Historic District
No records.
Structure State:
California
Structure County:
Marin
Region:
Pacific West
Cluster:
Pacific Great Basin
Administrative Unit:
Point Reyes National Seashore
LCS ID:
009234
 
Historical Significance:

National Register Status:
Entered - Documented
National Register Date:
10/08/1976
National Historic Landmark?:
No
Significance Level:
State
Short Significance Description:
The Olema Lime Kilns are of regional historical significance in the category of industry representing a Gold Rush American pioneer era effort to establish a lime-producing industry in Marin County, California, only two years after cession of Alta California to the United States by Mexico.
Long Significance Description:
Once thought to be of Russian origin, the kilns were built in 1850 on land leased from Mexican grantee Rafael Garcia by James A. Shorb and William F. Mercer, two San Francisco entrepreneurs. The kilns were reportedly fired only a few times, and have lain abandoned for some 140 years.
 
Construction Period:

Construction Period:
Historic
Chronology:
 
Physical Event
Begin Year
Begin Year AD/BC
End Year
End Year AD/BC
Designer
Designer Occupation
1. 
Built
1850
AD
1852
AD
Shorb, J.A. & Mercer, W.F.
Other
2. 
Stabilized
1977
AD


NPS
Other
3. 
Stabilized
1979
AD


NPS
Other
 
Function and Use:

Primary Historic Function:
Industrial/Processing/Extraction
Primary Current Use:
Ruin
Structure Contains Museum Collections?:
No
Other Functions or Uses:
 
Other Function(s) or Use(s)
Historic or Current
1. 
Extractive Facility (Mining)
Historic
 
Physical Description:

Structure Type:
Ruin
Volume:
2,000 - 20,000 cubic feet
Square Feet:
1200
Material(s):
 
Structural Component(s)
Material(s)
1. 
Substructure
Limestone
2. 
Superstructure
Limestone
Short Physical Description:
Standing remains of three kilns constructed as a monolithic structure measuring 70' long, and up to 18' in width and 16' in height. Rectangular-cut stone blocks set in even horizontal courses, barrel-shaped interior chambers, 2 remaining arched fire box structures.
Long Physical Description:
From the 1973 National Register nomination form:
"The Olema Lime Kilns consist of three long-abandoned, barrel-shaped stone vaults lying in ruins against a hillside on the east side of Olema Creek about five miles south of Olema and about 100 yards west of California State Highway No. 1 in Point Reyes National Recreation Area.

"The kiln on the south was built of gray limestone which on the interior of the barrel was cut and fitted to enable application of a smooth coating of fire3clay and, running halfway around the back, firebrick. Use of firebrick as a lining at the back suggest treatment for higher temperature there. The outer casing, rectangular in shape, was also built of cut limestone. Between the inner and out casings is afilling composed of irregular chunks of limestone set in mud or clay mortar. When these kilns were abandoned, Kiln No. 1 was loaded with limestone but not fired, rendering measurement of its interior impossible.

"Kiln No. 2 was built adjacent to Kiln No. 1 and immediately to the north, similarly facing west towards the creek. It consisted of limestone laid in lime mortar probably produced by Kiln No. 1. It was larger, being oval in vertical section, nine feet in diameter side to side and nine feet ten inches in diameter front to rear. It was lined entirely with fireclay applied like plaster. This kiln sat farther forward than the other two, its front face extending seven feet beyond Kiln 1 and four feet beyond the front face of Kiln 3. A large Douglas fir, which according to tree ring dating sprouted after 1870, grew from the rubble between Kiln 1 and Kiln 2, severely damaging both kilns. Kiln No. 2 still has a welll-preserved front arched entrance, measuring six feet from side to side at the base and two feet six inches wide at the entrance to the barrel, tapering inward.

"Kiln No. 3, to the north of Kiln No. 2, was about the same size, being an oval barrel nine feet six inches in diameter from side to side and nine feet nine inches in diameter front to rear. A large Douglas fir tree grew up from the pit of this kiln. At an undetermined date before 1940 the entire arched entrance to this kiln was removed and rebuilt in Bolinas as part of a barbecue pit. Some individual moss-covered stones were removed from that and perhaps the other kilns for such uses as rock gardens, fireplaces, walls, and the like. Such vandalism has contributed to the decay of the kilns, along with the growth of trees and bushes on them.


"North of Kiln No. 3 was a low stone structure believed to have formed a bin for staorage of burned lime produced by the kilns. It was apparently only two feet high.

"Combined, the three kilns and storage platform formed a single stone structure erected in the creek bottom backed up along the hillside and stretching about seventy feet north to south. At its greatest depth (Kiln 2), the structure was about 18 feet 6 inches in width. it was about sixteen feet high.

"About fifty yards down the creek and on the opposite (west) side is the site of a house which may or may not have been associated with the kilns. Built reportedly of Douglas spruce [sic], it was destroyed by fire at an undetermined date."