I took a swing through portions of Brick Zone 5 (central Minnesota) several weeks ago and had an interesting time. I started out near Fairfax, Minnesota, looking for old brick buildings. Fairfax is like many small Minnesota towns, where main street is suffering. Most of the old brick buildings in town are located there, and many of them are vacant. There is some hint at progress, with a new bank under construction. There is an old historic brick church building as well, but I am unsure where the brick came from. The original Fairfax depot has been well cared for and stands along the railroad tracks.
Pushing onward to the west, I went through Morton, Minnesota. Morton had an extensive brick works in the early 1900s, but there is little evidence of it today. I have not looked at any old plat maps of the area, so I do not know where the brickyard was located. I do know it flooded at least once, so I assume it was near the river. There are several old orange brick buildings around the downtown area and an old orange brick school building. This Morton “orange” is a pretty unique color. The New Ulm bricks have an orange color to them, but not quite to this shade. I really like it! I saw one orange looking block silo northwest of town that probably came from the Morton brick works too. Unique.
Travelling northward, I next encountered the somewhat larger town of Olivia. Olivia is the county seat for Renville County and shows much more bustle than Morton. Driving into town from the south, the county courthouse building is clearly evident in the skyline. Getting up close, the courthouse appears to be built from the orange Morton brick (but I have no proof). The courthouse has been remodeled and has been well cared for, which is great to see. There are also many old historic buildings in the downtown area to look at.
Continuing to the north, I next went to Willmar, Minnesota. I know Willmar also had an early brick industry. Coming into town from the south, it almost looks like a large metropolitan area. There is extensive building going on just about everywhere, which is quite amazing given the current economy. So Willmar must be doing something good. The old downtown area is almost hard to find, but look for the railroad tracks. The railroad gave life to these towns in the old days, and still does to some extent. The downtown is fairly quiet, but there does appear to be new investment in the area, with several ethnic shops cropping up. There is an amazing old IOOF building in this area, which stands for the International Order of Odd Fellows. This is a neat old brick building and I have added some photographs of it under the Hall of Fame section. They used several different colors of brick in this building, which gives it a neat look. If you have any information on any old buildings in the area, let me know, I would love to include it.