I am excited to start chasing some of those elusive Minnesota bricks again now that milder weather has come again. I took a trip to Crookston, Minnesota, to look around what remains of Crookston bricks. Amazingly, this community still holds many of its old ties to the past. I would highly recommend a trip over to Crookston if you are looking to see what old buildings used to look like. You can also poke around antique stores looking for old gems. There are a couple of them in old historical buildings in the downtown area. If you look carefully, you can find old signs painted on the sides of some buildings and original hardware still on some of them. What a treat! I took my webmaster along for the ride, and we both enjoyed looking around town.
Several days later, we took another swing through Polk County…and what a huge county it is!! I guess at one time they looked at dividing up the county, but never did. So there is quite a range from east to west, where you go from pine trees to the flat prairie of the Red River Valley. It is not a very populous county, so the towns are mostly small and very rural. However, the views are spectacular and you never know what you will find.
On this second trip, we first went to Fertile, Minnesota. There was a brickyard here at the turn of century that many of the local businessmen were involved in. The Fertile brickyard produced most of the brick used in many of the buildings that still stand in the downtown area today. Fertile is also a remarkable town, really located in a pretty spot. There are a lot of trees and quite a bit of terrain, so it is definitely out of the prairie flatlands. One of the backers of the Fertile brickyard was Andrew Opheim, and there is a building in downtown Fertile that still bears his name.
Fertile is a great small town with a friendly atmosphere. We stopped at the Fertile antique store right on the main highway through town. I always stop at the local antique stores and look for samples of the old bricks. This store did not have any sitting out, so I asked the owner if she had some lying around. It turned out that she did, she had a pile of them down in the basement. What a find! They did not have the name Fertile stamped on them, but they are a nice cream color and in great shape. We stopped at the local cafe, which had awesome food. After looking for old brick homes and only finding one, we headed out.
Our next stop was Warren, Minnesota. Warren also had a brickyard around the turn of the century, but remnants of it are harder to find. Fertile and Crookston seemed to have more ties to the past than Warren. However, there are a few buildings left downtown that were made of Warren brick, but not many. We also found one old house that was made of the brick. Look for many new additions in the coming weeks to our sections on Crookston, Warren, and Fertile.