For more than 100 years, the old lime kiln one mile north of Mantua has been a familiar landmark for travelers going to and from Logan.
But it's a landmark that may soon become little more than a memory. The lime kiln is crumbling, and highway expansion adjacent to U.S. 89-91 in Sardine Canyon could now sound the death knell for the historic site.The steady rumble of road graders and bulldozers, as well as blasting and compacting of the new road surface, is expected to cause irreparable harm to the structure. The kiln has already suffered decades of deterioration caused by the vibration of passing vehicles.
"I weep each time I pass it," said Sarah Yates, a local historian and managing editor of the Box Elder News Journal. "I would love to see it moved and preserved, but there's just no way."
Some residents proposed moving the kiln to the Mantua town park, but it was deemed too expensive and impractical.
According to an environmental impact statement prepared by the Utah Department of Transportation, it is virtually impossible for the new road alignment to avoid the kiln site. The kiln was first built in 1892 and became an integral part of Brigham City's pioneer history.
"Because of the crumbling condition of the brick and amount of missing pieces it is not reasonable to disassemble and move the structure," the EIS states. "In view of the rapidly disintegrating state of this property, appropriate recordation is the most appropriate mitigation measure."
That means a detailed written and photographic record of the kiln will be made but no attempts to preserve the site itself. That doesn't set well with a lot of local residents, but no formal opposition to the destruction of the site has emerged.
"We all love the old site, but there's a sense there's nothing we could do about it anyway," Yates says.
The kiln is typical of those constructed during the 1890s just before the widespread use of concrete in Utah. The Mantua kiln was important in that it supplied much of the lime used in the construction of early buildings in Brigham City. It is one of only two remaining lime kilns in the region.
Built by James W. Sheffield, the Mantua kiln was operated until 1908 and outlived a number of competing kilns. A cement plant opened near Brigham City in 1909, dooming Sheffield's kiln.
Actually, very little of the original lime kiln is now visible, though what remains is still a popular attraction for motorists. Yates describes historic photographs of the site that show it towering well above the men posing in the photo. The walls are less than 6 feet high today.
"People have been collecting the bricks for years," Yates says. "There is no longer any sense of how big it really was."
Originally, the kiln measured 22 feet high and 21 feet across the base and 17 feet wide at the top.
While in production, the kiln burned continuously with coal and lime rock loaded into the top of the kiln and lime drawn from the bottom. About 21/2 tons of coal were burned every day, producing 50 to 75 bushels of lime, Yates said.
Road construction is not expected to reach the lime kiln site until sometime next year.