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A look back at the industry that left big holes in the ground and gave Rockland its name — Midcoast — Bangor Daily News — BDN Maine

A look back at the industry that left big holes in the ground and gave Rockland its name — Midcoast — Bangor Daily News — BDN Maine

Lauren Abbate | BDN

Lauren Abbate | BDN

David Hoch, the final president of the Rockland-Rockport Lime Firm, has a treasure trove of relics from the limestone industry in his residence, together with this photograph of certainly one of Rockland’s many limestone quarries.

By Lauren Abbate, BDN Employees •
December 9, 2018 7:00 am

ROCKLAND, Maine ― David Hoch had solely labored for the Rockland-Rockport Lime Firm for about 4 years when he was given the heavy activity of telling the crews that the firm’s 4 remaining lime kilns have been going to be shut down indefinitely.

Till then, for greater than a century, lime kilns lined Rockland’s harbor, burning limestone mined from a maze of quarries situated on the different aspect of the metropolis. The limestone was shipped down the Japanese Seaboard, the place it might be used for mortar and plaster, serving to construct cities like New York and Boston.

However in 1958, the final of Rockland’s kilns went darkish. Sixty years later, it’s a reality that Hoch, at 89 years previous, simply can’t shake.

“That was the absolute end of over a hundred years of burning lime in Rockland, Maine,” Hoch stated. “That historical fact, I just can’t escape that. I was there when the last kilns forever went out.”

Hoch can be the final president of the Rockland-Rockport Lime Firm, which shuttered a pair many years after the kilns went out. Immediately, he’s certainly one of the final individuals in Rockland with a direct hyperlink to the industry.

“Limestone is really what made Rockland,” Rockland Historic Society member Gil Merriam stated. “A lot of people don’t know a thing about it.”

Rockland’s first industry

Courtesy of Rockland Historic Society

Courtesy of Rockland Historic Society

A limestone quarry in Rockland round 1870.

The town’s relationship with limestone began earlier than Rockland was even its personal municipality, and could be credited to a vein of limestone that stretches from Thomaston by means of the Rockport-Camden space.

Limestone is a sedimentary rock shaped underwater over hundreds of years, Hoch stated. It’s shaped from skeletal fragments of marine organisms. It’s generally used for constructing supplies corresponding to mortar, plaster, concrete and cement.

Quarrying of the limestone deposit in the Rockland-Thomaston space predates the Revolutionary Warfare, in accordance with Merriam, although on a really small scale. By the 1800s, dozens of quarries have been forming to reap the limestone.

Courtesy of Rockland Historic Society

Courtesy of Rockland Historic Society

The Williams Quarry in Rockland was over 400 ft deep.

A lot of the quarrying and lime burning was occurring in part of what was then Thomaston, referred to as Shore Village. Round 1850, when the village separated to type its personal city, group members named it Rockland, a nod to the lime industry that was inflicting the village to quickly develop, based on the guide, “Images of America: Rockland Area Lime Industries,” written by Hoch, Merriam and Courtney C. MacLachlan.

The town was included in 1854, and by 1870, its lime industry had taken off.

“That’s all they did. It was major,” Hoch stated. “The harbor was right full of schooners waiting to get loaded [with limestone.]”

Apart from the top quality of the lime deposit, the proximity of the quarries to Rockland Harbor propelled the metropolis’s success in the industry. “It was so easy to transport [limestone] from here because we had the access to the ocean,” Rockland Historic Society curator Ann Morris stated.

If it hadn’t been for limestone being shipped from Rockland, Merriam and Hoch stated the progress of east coast cities like New York and Boston would have slowed with out quick access to the constructing supplies.

Courtesy of Rockland Historic Society

Courtesy of Rockland Historic Society

An undated photograph of the Lime Rock Railroad which encompassed Rockland throughout the peak of the limestone industry.

In response to the lime industry’s presence in Rockland, Merriam stated secondary industries flourished, particularly shipbuilding. A whole railroad system, referred to as the Lime Rock Railroad, was constructed round the metropolis, Hoch stated, transporting the heavy limestone that was dug out by hand on the bottom of the metropolis to the kilns on the harborside.

Rockland additionally has the declare of going the deepest in the nation to mine for limestone, Hoch stated, with the Williams Quarry being dug greater than 400 ft deep. It was a marvel that President William Howard Taft wanted to see for himself when he was in Rockland in the early 1900s, Hoch added.

At one level, there have been 160 lime kilns in Rockland burning lime round the clock, Hoch stated. In the 1880s, Rockland was producing as much as 1.four million barrels of lime yearly, in accordance with “Images of America: Rockland Area Lime Industries.”

The town’s success gave it the nickname, “The Lime City,” Hoch stated.

“It’s really the biggest and the longest lasting industry [to happen in Rockland],” Merriam stated.

The final Rockland lime president

Courtesy of Rockland Historic Society

Courtesy of Rockland Historic Society

A few of the final remaining lime kilns in Rockland after they have been torn down.

By the time Hoch’s chapter in the limestone industry got here to be in the mid-1950s, the industry had drastically declined.

In 1900, the Rockland-Rockport Lime Firm purchased up all of the smaller lime corporations in the metropolis, Morris stated. However as new constructing methods have been being launched, Morris stated the demand for lime started to lower. By the mid-1900s, Hoch stated the supply of top of the range limestone in Rockland had been largely depleted.

The writing was on the wall. However Hoch was ― and nonetheless is ― an optimist.

“Limestone has been a part of my life from day one,” Hoch stated.

Courtesy of Rockland Historic Society

Courtesy of Rockland Historic Society

Lime kilns, the place limestone was burned earlier than it might be shipped, have been housed in giant “sheds,” as pictured in this 1904 photograph.

His father got here to Maine from Pennsylvania in the 1920s to work at the Dragon Cement plant in Thomaston, which nonetheless mines limestone to make use of in the cement and concrete it produces.

However it was simply by happenstance that Hoch wound up being the final president of the Rockland-Rockport Lime Firm. In 1954, he was promoting inventory in Rockland after coming back from the Military, the place he served in the Korean Warfare.

Someday on the job, he tried convincing the then president of the Rockland-Rockport Lime Firm to purchase shares of inventory, however as an alternative, Hoch ended up with a job supply.

At first he resisted the supply to tackle the place of foreman, which might make him third in command of the firm. However his optimism obtained the better of him.

The corporate, “was such a damn mess, and it looked so bad. It was like a huge nuisance, really and truly, you have to admit that,” Hoch stated. “So there were all these things you could do to fix it, to make it better, it seemed like.”

Courtesy photograph | BDN

Courtesy photograph | BDN

An undated photograph of the Rockland-Rockport Lime Firm’s operations in the north finish of Rockland.

When the firm determined to cease burning lime in 1958, the focus shifted to producing limestone for different functions, resembling agricultural lime. Hoch stated the firm was promoting about 70,00zero tons a yr to Maine farmers who would apply it to their fields.

The method concerned grinding the limestone right into a high-quality mud, a lot to the ire of metropolis officers. The corporate’s operations have been based mostly on the waterfront in the metropolis’s north finish, proper subsequent to the fish rendering plant, SeaPro, which produced rotten fish odors that additionally annoyed the metropolis.

“All we were trying to do was make lime dust and put it in bags for the farmer. Well, of course a lot of that would escape and the north end had this huge cloud of white lime dust coming up,” Hoch stated. “To make it worse, there were two fish meal plants, one was on the north side of us and the other, SeaPro, was right in our yard. So when the wind came out of the east, here comes all of this lime dust, and here comes the [fish] stink. I was always accused of ‘the stinking lime dust,’ but I wasn’t making the stink.”

Hoch ultimately labored his was up the firm ladder, and after the president died, Hoch was the just one there to take over. He tried a number of totally different avenues to maintain the firm going, together with increasing their welding operations to tackle outdoors work. That ultimately shaped R&R Engineering, which turned as big as the lime finish of the enterprise.

However his efforts, and optimism, weren’t sufficient to maintain the firm going. The previous money owed of the enterprise ultimately brought on the financial institution that had financed a lot of the firm to foreclose on it. Merriam stated this occurred round 1980.

What stays

Lauren Abbate | BDN

Lauren Abbate | BDN

A 200-year-old lime kiln is the solely kiln nonetheless standing in Rockland. At one time there have been about 160 lime kilns in the metropolis.

The town’s ties to the limestone industry aren’t as apparent in current day, as say, the metropolis’s deep maritime roots. However remnants of the previous creep via.

Alongside Previous County Street, deserted limestone quarries, now full of water, peek by means of foliage ― creating attract and security considerations. Since 1962, six individuals have died in accidents involving the deserted quarries, in line with Bangor Daily News archives.

Simply off Essential Road, standing overgrown in a mud lot, is a 200-year-old lime kiln, that Morris is hoping desperately might be preserved.

The town owns a number of deserted quarries, and has floated quite a few plans to both fill or promote them. For many years, the metropolis has been utilizing one as a landfill for development particles and different supplies. The quarry landfill on Limerock Road closed to outdoors waste this previous summer time and the metropolis is engaged on plans to cap the landfill.

On Cedar Road, the final quarry in Rockland that was used for mining limestone has been become a man-made oasis. The repurposing of the former quarry into a personal swimming gap left a constructive impression on Hoch.

After which in fact, there’s no escaping the metropolis’s name itself.

Hoch doesn’t consider many individuals who stay in Rockland right now perceive the immense influence that the limestone industry had on the metropolis. He isn’t sure individuals will care.

However given that Rockland wouldn’t be the metropolis it’s as we speak with out limestone, Morris hopes extra individuals will contemplate the historical past of the industry as one thing value remembering.

“I think the important thing is for us to remember this industry,” Morris stated. “How can you know why we’re here? How can you understand life without knowing what came before?”