Santa Cruz County History - Making a Living

The Laguna Limekilns: Bonny Doon
by Robert W. Piwarzyk

[This article is excerpted from a manuscript titled, "The Laguna Limekilns: Bonny Doon," pp. 44-45. The maps, drawings, and photos of the manuscript are not included on this site. The manuscript is copyrighted 1996 by the author. It is used here with permission.]

Revised 14 March 1996


It comes naturally in many forms. It comes in shades of white, yellow, green, brown, red, grey, and blue. It comes from a myriad of ancient creatures broadcasting their skeletal remains on the ocean floors over many millenniums. It may even come from plants and algae, or bones. It has been called "the powder of civilization." It is lime!

In Santa Cruz, limestone ranges from marl to marble, from the pure white crystals of calcite to the "Ben Lomond blue." Along the ancient Ben Lomond fault, the quarries at Fall Creek and the Pogonip were called "blue cliff" and "blue rock." Traces of grey to blue graphite impart its color to these ores. All fossil traces of the life that created them were lost; dissolved under the pressure of miles of accumulated sediment. Then they were metamorphosed by the heat of large intrusions of fluid granite, called plutons. These penetrated the ancient layers of sea sediment and became the granite on Ben Lomond Mountain. But perhaps as much as ten miles of uplifted material had to erode away before either could be seen!

The seismic forces that caused the uplifting also laced the limestone with faults and fissures. Therefore it is difficult to quarry large building blocks, but smaller stones, marble facing, and crushed rock have been used locally in construction. However, it is the purity of the limestone found in the Santa Cruz mountains that makes it so valuable. Any ore containing 50% or more of calcium carbonate can be considered limestone. Here it reaches 95 to 97% and can produce the highest grade of building lime.

This report is a continuation of the story of the lime industry in Santa Cruz County. Initially Ben Lomond Mountain was exploited at its southernmost end by the Spanish and the Mexican/Californians on a smaller scale, and then on a larger scale by the capitalist Yankees for export and profit. These earlier efforts demonstrated the viability of meeting the demand for building materials in the burgeoning state of California.

The industry expanded north out of the city and up the coast to Davenport on the west flank of the mountain, and up the San Lorenzo river valley to the east flank above Felton. The industry flowed over the mountain from Felton. The industry not only acquired vast land holdings for the quarries and kiln sites, it acquired forest land to provide wood to fuel the kilns. The industry competed with the sawmills. A story of land control and enterprise unfolded.

As the Laguna limekilns were a link to the industries of the valley and the coast, so they are now a link in "The Limekiln Trail." As shown on the map and key on the following two pages, this "trail" extends from Samuel Adams' kilns on Grey Whale Ranch and the four kiln sites on the UCSC campus; past the Kalkar quarry; past the Pogonip quarries and kilns; on to the Rincon, Holmes, Bennett, Bull, and Ixl kilns in Felton; and over the ridge line to the Laguna kilns on Ice Cream Grade.

More remains to be learned from the Laguna limekilns!

The Limekiln Trail

Key to remaining kiln sites on attached map [Not included on here.]
(all kilns are pot kilns unless otherwise noted)

Location No. of Kilns No. of Arches Date/Owner
[1] Pogonip (old) 1* unknown Unknown/Mission?
Pogonip (south) 1 3 Unk/Brady or Reed?
Pogonip (north) 1* 4 Unk/Brady or Reed?
[2] UCSC (gate) 3 4 each 1851/Jordan & Davis
1864/Davis & Cowell (Cowell's lower kiln)
UCSC (gate) - oil, continuous? 1 2 Unk/Davis & Cowell
[3] UCSC (upper quarry) 1 6** Unk/Brady or Reed?
[4] UCSC (bridge) 1 3 Unk/Brady or Reed?
[5] UCSC (Elfland) 1 unknown Unknown/Mission?
[6] Grey Whale Ranch 3*** 4 each 1858/Samuel Adams
1869/Davis & Cowell (Cowell's upper kiln)
[7] Rincon - patent****
- pot kilns
4 each
1906/S.H. Cowell
1920/S.H. Cowell
Henry Cowell Redwoods StatePark
[8] Felton - pot kilns*****
- Continuous
1 each?
2 each?
1876/Russell - Holmes
1881/Holmes Lime Co.
[9] Felton 1 3 1866/Thomas Bull(Bohl)
[10] Felton 1 3 1867/Eben Bennett & brother, Stanley
[11] Felton
Fall creek State Park
3 4 each 1874/Ixl Lime Co.: to Isaac Blum,
1896 F.D. Seeyle, Moses Cerf, & A. Blockman
1900/Ixl Lime Co. (Henry Cowell)
Bonny Doon 2 unknown 1858/Andrew Glassell
Lone Star quarry
(not on map)
2* 3 each 1867/Andrew Glassell, Grove Adams, B.F. Lee, & P. Fitzhugh
1869/Grove Adams
[12] Bonny Doon
Ice Cream Grade
2 2 1899/Holmes Lime Co.
(not on map)
3 1 each Unk/Jordan & Davis?

* Not reported by Jensen
** Jensen reported four arches
*** Jensen reported two kilns
**** Standard 34' continuous kilns
***** Four 500 barrel pot kilns and one 1,000 barrel pot kiln

>>Continue with: Historical Background.



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kilns, limestone, mining, quarries


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