Austin White Lime was originally established in 1888 as Martin and Walker. Mr. A.F. Martin was the president and proprietor. After being purchased by a group of family members in the early 1940’s and changing its name, Austin White Lime Company has successfully maintained its status of being a locally owned family business ever since.
Since the beginning, Austin White Lime has done one thing: quarry limestone from the Edwards Limestone formation in the Balcones escarpment; and through its manufacturing process, the rough limestone is burned into “one of the most versatile and widely used reagents in the world.”
The manufacture of lime consists of a series of chemical reactions. The limestone in the presence of heat releases carbon and oxygen in the form of carbon dioxide. This reaction leaves calcium oxide or quicklime.
The University Of Texas School of Chemistry in 1897 completed analyses of Austin White Lime Samples which showed the samples to be “fat lime of unequaled quality and remarkable purity.” “These limes compared with those that are regarded among the best in the world are seen to possess a purity equaled by none of them.”
At that time, Austin White Lime, situated in McNeil, Texas, consisted of a 16 x 18 foot central depot used as a lime house and a 30 x 50 foot area for general storage. Between thirty to fifty men were employed at the company, with the directors of Austin White Lime officed in downtown Austin. Most of the employees and their families lived in frame houses provided by Austin White Lime. The product was shipped to all parts of Texas, Louisiana, and the Indian Territory.
The plant itself consisted of three stone kilns with the capacity to produce approximately 300 barrels per day. Shipments at this time were primarily by rail. Mules and wagons were used to carry the stone, which was quarried by hand, to the kilns. Cedar wood was used as fuel source at this time, which required about eight cords per day to fire the kilns. By 1905, lime burned with coal rather than wood was coming into demand.
In the 1900’s people began to speculate on the increasing importance of lime in the future. The chief use of lime was for plaster and building processes. Lime saw a steady growth as it was used for industrial purposes in the manufacture of steel and iron products, paper, glass, leather, and bricks; and for chemical purposes in water treatment, in the manufacture of sugar, and insecticides. One of the oldest, and during this time period, most important applications was for the rebuilding of unproductive soils.
Originally, all of the lime produced was sold as coopered or barreled lime and bulk lump lime. In 1909 a new plant was built for the purpose of hydrating lime. The new plant consisted of four shaft kilns, hydrating machinery, warehouses and a cooper shop. The kilns were about fifty feet high, constructed of heavy iron steel and lined with firebrick. Production was increased to about 750 barrels per day.
The addition of the hydrating machinery was a significant step toward future growth and meeting customer’s needs. Lump lime, or quicklime, is highly reactive when exposed to moisture. Hydrated lime is quicklime that has had its affinity for water satisfied, the chief advantage being that it is easier to store and has a longer shelf life.
In 1959, lime needs were at an all-time high as a result of market conditions plus customer requirements. Austin White Lime was operating six shaft kilns but demand called for expansion. The first rotary kiln was installed and nearly doubled the productive capacity of Austin White Lime, bringing production to 440 tons per bay. Designed by Kennedy Van Saun, the natural gas fired rotary kiln and its related equipment were part of an extensive improvement and expansion program. Innovations in road stabilization applications were a primary factor in the expansion.
Continued growth and further increases in demand dictated further expansion in 1964. Production was increased to approximately 640 tons per day with the addition of a second rotary kiln. To enable Austin White Lime to further meet the needs of its customers, the storage capacity was expanded to 2500 tons. A Raymond pulverizing mill and a new hydrating unit were added as well at this time.
Austin White Lime added the third and largest rotary kiln in 1981. This kiln raised production by 500 tons per day. The hydrating production capacity was simultaneously doubled with the installation of a second KVS Hydrator. Once again, advancements in all markets and breakthroughs in stabilization applications were the moving forces behind this most recent expansion.
In spite of the growth and change, many things at Austin White Lime remain the same. With more than 125 years passing since our inception, Austin White Lime’s employees and owners have the same commitment to improving their ability to meet and exceed customer specifications. This formula has been successful for over a century and will continue well into the next.