Less than 100 miles west of Boise an abandoned cement plant hunkers amidst yellow hills. I’ve passed this site at least once a year for nearly 40 years. The site grew more run down with each passing year until one day I realized it had been abandoned. From then on my head cranked at each passing and I’d think, geez, I’d love to poke around there. I was usually in the company of other people or on a tight schedule or just driving too damned fast to pull off the road in time. Actually, pulling off the road was another issue. Lime sits just north of I 84 and I could never spot a promising exit nearby. Recently as I was returning from the Wallowa Mountains in Oregon, I was determined to put off the mindless boredom of the interstate for as long as possible. From Baker, Oregon, I picked up old Highway 30 which parallels the interstate like a skier slaloming back and forth under the freeway, passing old homesteads and crumbling villages along the way. My rambling path lead me right to the old plant at Lime.
Lime, Oregon began, like so many communities, with the establishment of a Post Office along the route of the old Oregon Trail in 1899. Those nearby limey hills from which sparse and anemic grass sprouts, along with the proximity of the Union Pacific railroad, must have been a cement manufacturer’s wet dream in the early 20th century. In 1916 the Acme Cement Company built a plant at Lime. The plant grew, changed hands, and modernized but the eventual depletion of nearby lime deposits initiated a process of shrinkage. The Post Office was abandoned in 1964. The plant limped along until the early 80’s at which time a newer, more modern facility was built a few miles west and on the other side of the freeway. Since then, the property has sat on its small knoll watching cars whiz by, sloughing off it’s less durable wooden parts, and hosting spray can artists.
As I poked around the abandoned plant, I was surprised at how little overt vandalism has marred the remains, particularly considering that there aren’t any no-trespassing signs, warnings, padlocks, or fences around the site. So far, aside from graffiti, the decay has been organic. I didn’t even see stacks of beer cans or broken glass scattered about.
Who knows. Perhaps Lime, Oregon is not yet dead. A few years ago one idealistic young man envisioned a new town phoenixing out of the abandoned site of crumbling Lime, Oregon.