Saturday, October 27, 2012

Discovering the Path Less Taken or How I Found the Lime Kilns of Hurstville

Admit it. You pass through a locale zillions of times using the same path. By altering the route just a bit you can often discover things you never knew. Such was the case this month with the remnants of lime producing kilns just north of Maquoketa, Iowa.

Two forces are at work. One is the fact that another Iowa base blogger, Jeannelle from Midlfe by Farmlife, posted her discovery of the kilns on October 14th. Her subject matter of the post and its proximity to the 42N HQ quickly inspired me to find out for myself what I had missed for years. The other force is personal exploration or finding out how did I miss these preserved ancient furnaces.

Last week we drove the usual route from Cedar Rapids to Maquoketa. The town and area are widely known for the Maquoketa Caves State Park, the county fairgrounds, antique shops and a few restaurants. It is also a stop off point from Cedar Rapids to eastern Iowa’s Mississippi River towns. But veering north just a mile or so on State Highway 61 brings you to the tiny town of Hurstville. There along the highway are these stone furnaces that produced lime mortar from the 1870s to 1920. Read Jeannelle’s write up here and go here for more information.

At the site on a very warm Sunday morning were at least two groups of people taking family and high school senior portraits against the limestone hills and autumn backdrops. My curiosity was to explore the stone structures and remaining wooden buildings. Since 1980 the Jackson County Historical Society maintains the site and has built a picnic shelter near a creek to host visitors.

Traveling 42N back roads does not automatically mean that you’ll discover something unfamiliar. Researching other views, stories and opinions sometimes present previously unknown information. What you do with that information is key to understanding the world better. In this case, thanks to Jeannelle for expanding my understanding of Iowa history and landmarks.


  1. Neat discovery. I'm a person that likes to travel off the beaten path. There's a lot of interesting things to discover.

  2. Hey, that's a pretty cool "discovery." I'll have to venture over there one of these days.

  3. I'm glad you were able to visit there! Thanks for mentioning my blogpost!