Friday, January 7, 2011

Eastburn-Jeanes Lime Kiln District Structures

Structures of the Lime Kiln District
 In the last post, I tried to give a brief history of the area known as the Eastburn-Jeanes Lime Kiln District. In this post, I'd like to take a closer look at some of the extant structures in the area, which include a mix of domestic and commercial buildings. If you'll recall from the history, the lime-burning business was begun around 1816 by brothers-in-law Abel Jeanes and David Eastburn. Later, the venture was carried on by David's son and then his grandson, both named Joseph. All of the structures in the area (with the exception of two) were built by one of these three men. Luckily for us, they're all still (mostly) standing today.

The logical place to start with this topic would be the two family houses -- the Jeanes House on Upper Pike Creek Road and the David Eastburn House on Paper Mill Road. For varying reasons, though, I'm not going to spend much time on either of them. For the Eastburn House, it's mostly because I don't have much information on it at this time, except for the fact that it was built by David Eastburn, most likely when he moved to the area in about 1816. If I'm ever able to come up with more, I'll certainly devote a post to this historic home, and the base of the Eastburn family in the region. As for the house occupied by Abel Jeanes, I have been able to piece together a little of what I believe is its history (complete with a prominent but long-forgotten name) that I'll detail in a forthcoming post. But don't worry, that still leaves us with plenty to talk about in this post.

The first structure we'll look at is (at least partly) one of the oldest on the property, and is shown in the picture below. I'll say a few more things about this in an upcoming post, but all signs point to this building as originally being a working grist mill, likely dating to the 18th century -- prior to Jeanes' purchase of the land. Francis A. Cooch, in his book Little Known History of Newark, Delaware and Its Environs, also states that this was an older mill that was burnt by the British or Hessians on their way to Brandywine in 1777. It's not known whether the mill was operable when Jeanes purchased the tract, or whether he ever used it. My guess would be that he did not operate the mill, or at least didn't run it for long, since at some point he converted the old mill into a warehouse for his lime business. Later, probably in the early 20th century, it was converted into a dwelling, which it remains today.

Abel Jeanes' Grist Mill-turned-Warehouse
In his book, Cooch also mentions a "large double tenant house" which was built by Able Jeanes and occupied by "the help", presumably some of the more than two dozen workers he employed. It was in poor condition at that time (1933), but I believe it is still there and located just behind the mill/warehouse. This site has a few pictures of the area about half way down, including two with the tenant house in the background. It appears to be of the same local limestone construction as most of the other buildings, so I'm confident that this is it.

Sitting across the road and on the east side of Pike Creek are the remains of what was once the most impressive structure in the area -- Abel Jeanes' massive stone barn. Built in 1832, it was for many years thought to be the largest barn in Delaware. Even by looking only at the considerable stone foundation, all that's left after it burned in the early 1940's, I don't doubt it. Nowhere does the record indicate this, but my assumption would be that the barn was built this large in order to house the unusually high number of draft animals Jeanes owned. In 1832, the year the barn was built, he had 38 horses and 10 or 12 yoke of oxen. They all needed to go somewhere, so he built a huge barn. In addition to being the largest of the area's structures, the barn is also the only one on the east side of the creek. I agree with Cooch's assessment that Jeanes did this intentionally to keep it a safe distance from the the burning, and spark-producing, lime kilns. 
Springhouse/Wheelwright Shop - foreground. Office - behind
Moving now to the south of the Jeanes, and later Joseph Eastburn, House, come several structures built by the senior Joseph Eastburn. Since he probably moved into his Uncle Abel's house sometime around 1850, I'd surmise that these next few sites were probably built soon after. First, on the south side of the house, is the wagon shed. As the lime-burning business grew through the 19th century, Joseph Eastburn began delivering his product farther and farther away. This, of course, necessitated his having a number of wagons -- this shed was built to house those wagons. Those wagons also were the reason for the addition he made to the neighboring structure. Along the road, Jeanes had earlier put in a small springhouse. Later, Eastburn extended the structure and added a wheelwright shop to repair his wagons. Sort of the 19th century equivalent to having an on-site auto-shop to fix your fleet vehicles.
Office and Storeroom built by Joseph Eastburn

Finally, next to the springhouse/wheelwright shop sits the last of the buildings we'll look at in this post, Joseph Eastburn's Office and Storeroom. As much as anything else, I think the erection of this building proves that the lime business here was not just a small family operation, but was actually a full-fledged business. When you need to build a separate office building, in my mind you certainly have a "real" company. And just as a final note about all of these structures, if they look a little different from most of the other houses and mills in the area -- they are. As one can see by driving around MCH, one of the main building materials used in the late 17th and much of the 18th century was the local fieldstone (mostly types of gneiss and schists) that underlies much of the area. All the buildings in this area, however, with the exception of the Jeanes House and the base of the wagon shed, are built from the limestone found right here, which gives the walls a slightly different look than the other "stone" buildings in the region. This is just another reason that I think the Eastburn-Jeanes Lime Kiln Historic District is one of the most unique areas in Mill Creek Hundred.


  1. Do you know what the jeanes stone barn was used for?

  2. Presumably for the same sorts of things that any barn is used for on a farm. Along with the lime business, he also probably had a working farm. As to why it was so big, I have two theories. As I mentioned in the post, he had a lot of animals relating to the lime business used for hauling his product. The barn may have been built with them in mind.

    The second theory has to do with Jeanes himself. He was a very interesting man, and from what I've gathered about him, I wouldn't doubt he built it big just because he could. I've been in contact with a living, local relative of Jeanes, and she's passed on some fascinating stuff. Sometime soon I'll wrap it all up in a post about him.