Alfred Hurst purchased land north of Maquoketa, in 1871, where he and his brother, William, built four limestone kilns, each standing 30 foot high. Stone was hauled by mules and horses up an embankment, dumped through the top down onto iron grates at the bottom. Hardwood was gathered from local forests and used to build large fires under the grates. The heat drove the water and carbon dioxide from the stone leaving a white powder called quick lime. When water and gravel were added the mixture made mortar for stones and bricks. When water and sand were added, plaster was produced. Thinned still more the mixture became whitewash. The lime was high in quality and the business flourished. Hurstville, a company town, grew up around the kilns. Lime was shipped all over the Midwest until the early 1900s when Portland cement came into use producing a better mortar and a material called gypsum came into use as a plaster. The last time a kiln was fired was 1930.
The four lime kilns at Hurstville constitute the largest group of fully restored kilns in the country. This major feat was completed in 1985, taking four years at the cost of $61,000. The site, affliated with Silos & Smokestacks National Heritage Area, is located 1 mile north of Maquoketa, on old Highway 61. It remains a cooperative venture of the Jackson County Historical Society and the Jackson County Conservation Board.