These structures are now a part of Lime Kiln Park in Grafton. The park area was once part of a limestone quarry operated by the Milwaukee Falls Lime Company, which was incorporated in 1890 and which in later years was owned by the Tews Lime and Cement Company of Milwaukee. Originally there were 5 kilns in a row, which used cordwood as the chief source of fuel. A spur of the Chicago, Milwaukee, and St. Paul railway was built to expedite the outgoing shipment of lime.
Limestone is a rock composed of calcium, carbon, and oxygen. When it is heated, the carbon escapes as carbon dioxide, leaving lime. The abundance of high magnesium limestone, called dolomite, in much of eastern Wisconsin played an important part in the development of many area communities. The remains of fossils, according to geologists, formed the limestone bed thousands of years ago.
The first lime kiln in the area was built by a Timothy Higgins in 1846. By 1900, when the Falls quarry was in active production, Wisconsin ranked 3rd nationally in lime production. Lime was used to whitewash buildings, to condition soil, treat animal hides and leather, and for plaster and mortar. Later, a stone crusher was added which was used primarily to crush limestone for road beds.
The kilns stopped operating in the 1920s. By 1940, scarcely 19% of the nation's lime was produced in Wisconsin. Contributing to the decline of the lime industry was the higher cost of fuel, the gradual depletion of the quality of limestone, the depression, which paralyzed the building industry, and changing markets. Chemical and industrial firms replaced farmers and builders as the chief users of lime.