There is nothing like summer in Minnesota. Lakes, warm weather, lush summer vegetation, and….county fairs in Minnesota! I decided to combine a brick outing and a trip to the Polk County Fair in Fertile, Minnesota. The PCF runs for about 5 days around the Fourth of July, which happen to be during some of the warmest summer weather in Minnesota.
Fertile also hosted a brickyard at one point in its history. Why Fertile for the fair? Hard to say, but it was probably because Fertile is a town about halfway between the western and eastern edges of Polk County. And Polk County is sure a wide county. There are bigger towns in the east and west, but they probably picked a centralized location for the fair. The PCF is an awesome fair. They have quite a few music venues, eating spots, rides, and things to look at. Some of our favorites this year were the chicken pairs in one display barn, the local karaoke competition, and the tasty pizza at Olive Pizza. Olive Pizza makes the pizza for you on the spot, meaning it uses fresh ingredients, and cooks it in a wood fired oven. It only takes a couple of minutes to make and bake, so you have a nice fresh pizza ready for you in a flash.
My main objective in Fertile was to track down more information on the local brickyard. I have already found quite a bit of information on this brickyard, but really hadn’t located where it was in relation to town. In bigger metro areas, all signs of the past can be wiped out with new construction, but Fertile is definitely not a metro area. And I am not saying that in a bad way, Fertile is a great small town in Minnesota. Before I get too far, let me put in a plug for La La’s Cafe in downtown Fertile. Before we hit the fair, we stopped at La La’s for lunch. They make great food at this cafe, and specialize in ice cream too. My personal favorite is the peanut butter cup one…mmmm. They also sell their ice cream at the PCF.
Getting back to my real purpose… I had located a plat map earlier that said the Fertile brickyard was located on the western edge of town. When you drive through Fertile, the school ball fields are on the western edge of town. Therefore I figured that the brickyard had been covered over by the construction of the ball fields. However, as I was driving a little further southward, I came across something that looked like a pit. Ah ha! When clay is being harvested to use in brickmaking, it takes a lot of clay. The brickyards in Chaska resulted in three large lakes. So I know that a large pit is a sign of a brickyard. This large pit was located behind several newer homes and townhomes, and had a “Keep Out” sign on it. Therefore I did not go too much further.
However, down in the old clay pit, I could see paths where it looked like ATVs had been driving around. There were also road signs down there too. So I ended up driving around to the south end of this area, where a gravel road passes by the north side of the local golf course. Going up several hills, it was evident there were hiking and ATV trails all over the hills in that area, as well as through the old clay pit. I decided to give one a try, and came in on a trail on the west side of the old clay pit. Here I came across a sign that actually said these large holes were the Fertile Brick & Tile Company’s clay pits. They had some historical information on the sign too. Pretty neat!
There is a boardwalk with stairs going from the sign down toward the clay pits, and I am not sure what they were for. The boards all look 100 years old and they are in tough shape. I stuck to the path and ventured down into the clay pits. Here there were pieces of old bricks in a beautiful rural landscape. Even further, I came across a series of power poles leading to an old brick building. WOW! You know you have stumbled across something important at this point. I have only seen a few remaining small pieces of brickyards, like a chimney, or a clay pit, but nothing like a couple of buildings.
There was a pile of clay there with a bunch of old brick in it, one wooden building that had fallen down, thousands of old bricks on pallets, and what appeared to be a kiln. This must have been a more modern kiln, not one of the old rounded ones. It had about 10 doors on each end with iron tracks down each one. I am guessing it was a continuous kiln, one of the more modern ones. Modern meaning that it was probably made in the early 1900s. This is really a nice site, even though this is all that remains. Some or most of the property appears to be on private land, but it would really be great if someone could preserve what remains and open it to the public. These sites are quite rare and hold a piece of the how the great state of Minnesota was made. I will post some pictures of this site on my Brick Structure of the Month for July, which will feature the Fertile Brick & Tile Company ruins. Thanks for visiting my site!