Thursday, June 5, 2014

Keystone Then and Now

If you asked people in northern Shelby County “What do you know about Keystone?” most who could answer at all would probably mention Keystone Plaza, the shopping strip along U.S. 31/Pelham Parkway at the Pelham-Alabaster line. Yet Keystone was once a thriving little community between those two towns.

 In the late 1890s Fred Hardy constructed kilns for a lime plant and named it Keystone Lime Plant. The operation grew and soon enough men were employed that a small community developed around the plant. The place, known originally as Hardyville, included grocery and dry goods stores, a barber shop and the plant’s offices. A post office opened in 1898 and Hardy served as first postmaster.

Hardy soon sold the plant, and by 1904 the post office served a community called Keystone. The plant burned in 1923, but reopened on a limited basis. Mortar was made there during World War II and the entire plant 1965. The community remained but the post office closed in 1972.

The Alabama Almanac and Book of Facts 1955-56 gave a few more details about Keystone. A telegraph office operated in the community at that time. E.L. Purdy was Superintendent of the Keystone Lime Works, Inc., plant; and G.W. Bentley was Foreman. Lime works also operated in the nearby communities of Landmark, Saginaw, Roberta and Pelham.

A 1937 state highway map show communities named Keystone and Hardy between Pelham and Alabaster. I wonder what the story is for Wilmay, south of Alabaster and probably another Shelby County community absorbed by growth. Neither Foscue's Place Names in Alabama or Harris' Dead Towns of Alabama tell us about Wilmay. 

The Alabama Official and Statistical Register for 1943 includes a list of U.S. Post Offices in the state as of July 1940. Keystone is one of the offices listed in Shelby County. 

Do you know anything? If so, leave a comment below.

15 August 2014: Since this item was originally posted, I've come across another remnant of Keystone. On August 6 the Alabaster Reporter published an article entitled "Keystone Mobile Home Park now fully in Alabaster." Thus the community of Keystone currently survives in the name of a trailer park and a strip mall at least!                                                                         
3 September 2014: And here's yet another remanant of Keystone on the right as you head south on U.S. 31/Pelham Parkway near the Pelham-Alabaster line:

20 July 2016: I've recently been contacted by a member of the Hammond family, who has graciously provided the photographs below from various family members. Thanks to all of you!

18 February 2018: The Shelby County Historical Society Quarterly Newsletter in its November 2017 issue [Volum19, Number 4, pp. 1-2] reprinted an article from the September 7, 1908, issue of the Columbiana Sentinel, "Keystone Lime Company's Plant One of the Greatest of its Kind in all the Southern States Keystone, Alabama". The article includes a photograph of what appears to be the company's office building. The article notes the company employs 155 people and has "a private telephone line to Siluria, Saginaw and Maylene."

This Google Earth view is from 2016.


  1. E.L.Purdy was my dad..i a, e l purdy iii. I remember growing up on the property, the screen plant that dad built and ultimately sold to an i dividual from mexico. Keystone was owned at the time by the Hammond brothers...william, kenneth amd dad married one of kenneths two daughters...mary.

  2. Thanks for your comments! Feel free to leave more.

  3. My name is William (Bill/Billy/Little Billy) Virgil Hammond III, grandson of WV Hammond senior who was one of the owners of Keystone Limeworks which the family sold in about 1956 due to health and business competition. My dad (WV Jr.) worked at the plant with my uncle EL Purdy referenced above by my 1st cousin Van Purdy.
    Occasionally I google Keystone to see if there have been any posts about the history. I was a small child and only about 6-7 years old when the plant and properties were sold.
    As I recall, there were about 500 acres in total consisting mostly of quarries, commissary (company store), plant, and there was the family compound which had homes of my grandfather and his brother Maurice.
    The company had it's own monetary system of clacker or tokens (now collectibles) used to pay employees who could purchase staples from the commissary or exchange 1/1 for US dollars to go into town (Alabaster/Pelham/Helena)and make purchases.
    Eventually all the quarries(3) filled with water and became popular fishing holes as well as having a diving school located at one point in time. The land was purchased by a local car dealer who then developed and sold off for housing and shopping facilities.
    I have some pictures of the old plant that i could share if you can tell me how to post.

    1. Hello and thanks for your comments and information! I'd be happy to include some photographs in this post. You can contact me by email at and we'll discuss it! Thanks again...A.J. Wright

  4. my family lived there and my dad and grandpa worked at the plant 1950 1960 era as a kid i remember the dirt street. keystone st. My dad wrote a song and it was recorded the album name is the keystone boggie by James jim Baker.if you want to talk call me 2052679125 in regards to keystone alabama. thanks James Baker jr

  5. Thanks for the information! Tell us more about your father and what you remember about living in Keystone.

  6. My father James Richard Glenn, born 1922, lived in Keystone as a child. His father Frank R. Glenn was the yard foreman at Estes Lumber Company at one point.

    1. Thanks for your comment! Feel free to leave any others about Keystone...