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Taylor Lime Kiln an industrial relic in Reed Park

Michael Barnes
mbarnes@statesman.com
The Taylor Lime Kiln stands as an industrial relic in Reed Park.

What the heck is it? A fort? An observation tower? The world's biggest barbecue pit?

In Reed Park, a small Tarrytown enclave, rises a brick monster. It predates the park — with its playground, game field, swimming pool and picnic tables — by 84 years.

This is how it was described in a letter dated Feb. 4, 1874, published in the Texas New Yorker and later cited in a 1982 report by Howard Ferguson:

"Here about three miles from Austin," the letter reads, "counting the meandering rings of the winding way, all snugged and hidden by hill and hollow, sturdy oak and emerald cedar, we found what is known as P.C. Taylor's Patent Perpetual Lime Kiln. We never should have found it but for the good guide we had in the person of its owner."

The strengthened industrial kiln, which consumed juniper night and day, was used to melt limestone into lime, which was then mixed with sand and other ingredients to make mortar, essential for any masonry structure. The stone was quarried in nearby Taylor Slough. A wagon trail connected the quarry with the giant kiln, built in 1871 by Peter Calder Taylor, a native of Scotland's Orkney Islands, on rugged land he purchased for $4,000.

The lime — at peak production 50,000 barrels a year — was not only used to build Austin, it was exported via railroad as far away as Galveston, then the state's biggest city. Workers lived and shopped in a company village nearby. Taylor added a second quarry and kiln that now sits on private property.

Soon after Taylor's death in 1895, his land on both sides of Lake McDonald — predecessor to Lake Austin — was subdivided and sold. The kiln cooled down, perhaps for the first time in a generation.

In 1954, the land was given to the city by Mrs. Fagan Dickson. She put no conditions on the gift, but told the Austin Statesman: "If the council sees fit, we'd like the park named for our little girls." Reed Park honors her daughters, Roberta Reed, then 15, and Lucy Reed, 13.

REED PARK

2600 Pecos St.

Area: 6 acres

Opened: 1955

Taylor Lime Kiln: 1871

AUSTIN UNTOLD STORIES