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Lime Quarries, Saint John

Over time the limestone of the Green Head Group was metamorphosed into marble. It has been mined since the late 1700s from many quarries near Saint John. The marble was used in limited amounts as a building stone, but more commonly to make lime. Quicklime is produced by heating limestone in a lime kiln and used to make mortar.  The quicklime was used locally for constructing stone buildings and exported to Nova Scotia and New England.

During the 1800s the lime business was booming. Provincial Geologist Abraham Gesner reported as many as nineteen kiln sites in operation in the early 1800s. Quarries operated at numerous locations. Prominent quarry locations include Green Head Island, near the Reversing Rapids Suspension Bridge, the Pokiok and Purdy & Greene quarries in north Saint John, and Torryburn in east Saint John.

The Armstrong Quarry on Green Head was one of the last historic lime kiln operations in southern New Brunswick. Remains of the quarry, kiln foundations, wharf timbers and foundation walls of homes can still be seen. Joseph and Frank Armstrong, whose lime product was known throughout the Maritimes for its quality, operated the quarry for many years. Much of the lime from the Armstrong Quarry was used locally. Buildings like the Old Post Office built on Prince William Street in Uptown Saint John after the Great Fire of 1877 were mortared using Green Head lime.

Joseph Armstrong was noted in newspapers of the day as a pioneer in the development of the lime industry that was worth almost $100,000 in export trade by 1889. He lived with his family on Green Head near the quarry. The quarry is an historic reminder of a mining industry that supported southern New Brunswick’s economy throughout much of the nineteenth century.

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The lime industry still survives in southern New Brunswick, quarrying the same Ashburn Formation marble that has been exploited for more than 200 years. Today the most visible reminder of the industry is located in Torryburn, near where the Lawlor Quarry was in the 19th century. Today it operates as the Brookville Manufacturing Company making agricultural lime and crushed stone.