Planners dig for details for exhibit on lime kiln

June 06, 1994|By Donna E. Boller | Donna E. Boller,Sun Staff Writer

In January 1844, the lime that was produced on the Joseph Orndorff farm southwest of Westminster was selling for 9 cents a bushel.

This detail is one that will help a city government committee create an accurate exhibit of the old lime kiln and quarry off Fenby Farm Road. The exhibit, which the steering committee hopes to enhance with a restored working kiln, will be part of a planned Westminster park.

Carroll County historic planner Ken Short has been digging into the kiln's history. It is one of many that dotted local quarries which produced lime in the 19th century.

Farmers spread lime on their fields to neutralize soil acidity and keep the soil from clumping. Builders used it to make mortar and mixed it with horsehair to create plaster for interior walls.

The kiln planned as the centerpiece of Westminster's Fenby Farm Lime Kiln Park was in operation in 1832 or 1833 and continued production until after 1905. Mr. Short has been unable to learn exactly when the operation closed.

The park is scheduled to open in 1995. The kiln and quarry take up fewer than 5 acres, Thomas B. Beyard, city planning director, estimated. They will be part of 70 acres that will form a linear park from Windsor Drive on the north to Old New Windsor Pike on the south.

Making lime was never a romantic task that pitted man against the stone he wrested from the earth.

"It was a dirty, gritty, industrial business," Mr. Short said. He said there was probably a lot of waste as men shoveled lime into baskets -- it was sold by the bushel -- then dumped it onto wagons.

The kiln in the park will have to be more tidy than its original counterpart, Mr. Short said, but he hopes that the steering committee members will try to convey the dust and debris.

"You don't want to pretty it up too much," he said.

Mr. Short also hopes that the steering committee will support an archaeological dig at the kiln.

"There's an awful lot we don't know about the site," he said.

A dig could help fill the gaps because the kiln was worked for at least 80 years and the workers weren't too fastidious. "All the detritus of everyday life was just scattered around." he said.

Mr. Beyard said the committee has discussed a dig, but is likely to delay a decision until members have decided how to present the park's educational and historic aspects to visitors.

Mr. Short traced the history of farm property that included the lime kiln and quarry from William and John Roberts -- who sold it to Joseph Orndorff in 1829 -- to the B. F. Shriver Co., which bought it in 1905.

He said the Roberts pair operated a general store in Uniontown, and that Mr. Orndorff apparently lived on the land and farmed it, although he owned a tavern in Westminster.

Mr. Orndorff also owned two slaves who worked on the farm. He apparently subcontracted the kiln operation to Joseph Stoudt, who advertised the lime for sale in 1844 in the Democrat and Carroll County Republican.

Mr. Short said that Joseph Orndorff sold the farm to William H. Orndorff in 1874, who later got into financial trouble and was forced to sell the farm in 1888.

William Orndorff advertised that the quarry on the premises yielded ". . . the finest limestone to be found in this section of the state . . . has always stood in high favor with builders and is equally useful for the fertilization of land."

Mr. Short said he couldn't learn anything about the personalities of the kiln owners. That information is probably locked away in diaries and letters stored in attics, he said.

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