Lime kilns didn’t save house from new owner

G. W. (for George Washington) Hart was one of the earliest settlers in what is now Lake Lillian Township, coming there from his native New York. That also qualifies him as one of the first settlers to come to this part of the country from the United States.

G. A. Carlson Lime Kiln on the northern face of Barn Bluff in Red Wing, Minnesota. Posted by user Elkman via Wikimedia Commons.

It so happened that he and his father, O.C. Hart, were actually late-comers. The two of them arrived in what is now Lake Lillian just an hour after the arrival of a party led by the Rev. J.J. Bomsta.

The Harts had two claims, both on the shores of Lake Lillian – father on the eastern shore, in what became East Lake Lillian Township, son on the west in soon-to-be Lake Lillian Township.

The elder Hart became the first postmaster in that area, handling incoming and outgoing mail to and from St. Paul, on a stage coach by way of Atwater. Later on he was very active in the merger of Kandiyohi and Monongalia counties and was appointed a commissioner of the new Kandiyohi County, by Gov. Marshall. Sometime later, he was elected county auditor.

He was the very first person around here to develop lime kilns on his property, and also making more near some of his farm buildings .

It was an exciting venture because it had only recently been used in some European locations. The process used clam shells from local lakes and ground and fired them until they became usable in the construction of well-made houses.

Son George Washington Hart built a similar home at his location on the west shore of Lake Lillian, which had been named for the wife of early explorer, artist and author Edwin Whitefield. He accompanied the first exploring parties to the area in the summer of 1856. Whitefield, who was from Boston, was so impressed that he painted oil colors of the lakes and lands in the area. Some of his work is in the Kandiyohi County Museum. He had another purpose. He sent his paintings to a friend in Boston who used them in marketing land in Kandiyohi County, Minnesota.

The use of lime in home building was entirely new in this part of the world. Shortly after young Hart’s house was finished — and it was an imposing sight — the Minnesota Historical Society sent a representative to see the place. He gave it an excellent rating and listed it as a “significant historical site.” When the registration of homes began quite some years ago, the Hart house was one of the early registrants.

Every good thing must come to an end and it so happened the Hart house had not been occupied for several years and was beginning to show it. A new owner, a younger man just retired from the military, wanted to build a modern home right where the Hart house was standing. One couldn’t blame him. His chosen site was exactly right for his new home. John O. Larson, a director of the county Historical Society, contacted him several times hoping to get him to change his plans by about 20 feet. That would preserve the existing house, too. Having a property on the Historical Site Register protects it from almost anything, except the owner. He’s still the owner and he makes the decisions. His was to burn it down. He set a date and a time for it and invited John and others to be present to see it destroyed. 

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