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.]

The Bonny Doon Kilns

Two known limekiln sites in the area have been referred to as "the Bonny Doon kilns." One (the subject of this report) is located on upper Laguna Creek, and has also been identified as "Laguna kilns" and "Grove Adams' kilns." The other is on the upper east branch of Liddell Creek (presently the RMC Lonestar quarry), and has also been referred to as "Glassell's kilns," "Jacob lime kilns," and "Cowell's old lime kilns." A review of the historic record and subsequent writings accumulated to date reveals that some confusion, and contradictions exist. This discussion is presented in the hope of resolving this problem, or at least calling the matter to the attention of future researchers.

To further confuse this situation, a three pot kiln with four arches per kiln was reported to have been buried on the lands of RMC Lonestar, approximately west of Thayer Drive, but this has not been confirmed. Also, a story persists that there are kiln remains east of the wine tasting room (formerly "The Lost Weekend" saloon) on Bonny Doon Road. The use of that road name to designate different roads may also have contributed to the confusion and is discussed separately under "The Roads of Bonny Doon."

The kiln site on the east branch of Liddell Creek lies to the east of the old Bonny Doon Road, which was abandoned by the county when the by-pass road was built. Its proximity to the uphill landmark, "The Lost Weekend" saloon, may account for the story of a kiln there. A hillside, two-pot kiln with three arches per pot was identified by map, dimensions, and photograph by Ken Jensen as being that owned by Andrew Glassell at this site. It was reported by Jensen that Mr. Glassell "began producing lime in 1858 and used an excellent road to ship his lime to William's Landing on the ocean at the mouth of Liddell Creek." Then in 1867 he took on three partners from San Francisco: Grove Adams, B.F. Lee, and Peregrine Fitzhugh, and they "built two new kilns and a cooperage."

In an interview last year Jensen stated that he concluded that these two new kilns were the side-by-side kilns located on Ice Cream Grade at Laguna Creek. He had no other information about the Laguna kilns. Also he was unaware that Liddell Creek had two other separate kilns as reported by Mike Luther, in 1987, when he surveyed the site at the time RMC Lonestar's main quarry was advancing to the west and the kilns had to be demolished (see map & drawings in appendix B [not included on this site]). Jensen agreed that the "two new kilns" referred to could have been the two side-by-side kilns he identified as "Glassell's original kilns," while the two separate kilns were actually Glassel's original kilns.

Jensen further concluded that Adams' Road (the precursor of Ice Cream Grade) was therefore named after Grove Adams. Don Clark in "Santa Cruz County Place Names" references Jensen's Adams kilns under "Adams Creek" and states that "Samuel Adams also gave his name to the road now known as Ice Cream Grade." This Adams, probably not even related to Grove, built the limekilns that Henry Cowell bought out which are located on what is now the Grey Whale Ranch. A separate discussion on Adams' Road shows that one P.R. Adams petitioned for the road and that it was more than likely named after him.

Jensen goes on to say that Grove Adams bought out his partners in 1869 and sold Glassell's "original" (?) kilns, in 1872, to a Mr. Boomer and a Col. Payne. They built a new road with a bridge to take their lime to Davenport Wharf, which was a better facility than William's Landing, but are not heard of again. In his map legend Jensen states these kilns were "later owned by Cowell." In an 1884 petition to the county to make Limekiln Road (AKA Coast Grade, Liddell Creek Road, and Bonny Doon Road) a county maintained road this site is referred to as "Jacob" lime kilns, and the existing county road from Empire Grade (built in 1872) to these kilns as "crossing the lands of Jacob." No mention made as to whether the kilns were being operated. A 1905 Bonny Doon parcel owners map shows Henry Cowell as owner of the property where these kilns are located. Maps A4-157 (undated) and A80-222 (dated 22 June 1911) note this site as "Cowell's old lime kilns." These petitions and maps are presented in appendix B. [Not included on this site.]

Clark describes the "Bonny Doon kilns" as "limestone kilns owned by the Henry Cowell Lime & Cement Company located near the southern intersection of Bonny Doon and Pine Flat Roads. They opened in 1900 and operated only a short time. Named for the district." All of this may never be unraveled. More research is needed to determine the history of ownership of the Laguna kilns property, but considering that the petition to construct Ice Cream Grade was dated 1893 and signed by P.R. Adams, it seems reasonable that these kilns were not the ones operated by Grove Adams.

Subsequently an item was found in the Santa Cruz Surf, Dec. 11, 1899: "The Holme Lime Company are building a new kiln on the 'Ice Cream' Grade at Bonny Doon." Several references are made to "the Bonny Doon kilns" by Felton writers when reporting about these Holmes' kilns. Edith Fikes, Felton librarian, noted that the Holmes Lime Company referred to their new kilns on Ice Cream Grade as "new kilns." She said they were located "on the coast side of Bonny Doon Road." This is not the same Bonny Doon Road as we know it now! To the folks in Felton, the road we now call "Felton-Empire Road" was the "Bonny Doon Road." See further discussion under "The Roads of Bonny Doon."

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