Published June 6, 2009

Working from his home business not far from the site of his grandfather’s farm in Amherst, Virginia, Jimmy Price is a master of traditional building craft skills once prized and now nearly forgotten. Producing the basic materials for historic brickwork and masonry, Jimmy’s family-run business, Virginia Limeworks, showcases walls built by hand with brick produced on site from Virginia clay. He uses lime-based mortar made from oyster shells harvested in Maryland and Virginia, burned in kilns on the property, and painted with lime washes or mineral-based paints.

Lime has been used in building construction for more than six thousand years, but this continuity was interrupted with the invention and broad manufacture of Portland Cement more than a century ago. Now supplying materials for historic restoration and green building projects, Jimmy’s company ships its oyster shell-derived lime products all over the U.S. and abroad, and has close ties to traditional building organizations in the U.K. and Jamaica.

With the help of apprentice Alex Handley, Jimmy and his crew led the project to reconstruct historic St. Mary’s City Chapel in Maryland, reproducing the bricks and lime mortar used in the original building, and even the scaffolding made of hand-hewn wood and rope knotting used to build the 1667 structure. Jimmy’s expertise and labor also contributed to the reconstruction of James Madison’s Montpelier in 2008.


Learning Experience

Virginia History in Song

What can songs teach us about history?