Historic Bricks Demand a Historic Brickworks

Period-appropriate bricks are key to the repair and restoration of historic buildings, but they’re also hard to come by, since the ones that aren’t worn out or broken are usually holding up a building somewhere. That’s why the closure of Colonial Brick of Cayuga, in Vermillion County, is such a loss.


The End of an Era

Not many places these days make bricks the way the Swartzes do. But after more than fifty years in the business, the Vermillion County brick makers are parting ways with their 50-acre operation in Cayuga and closing up the century-old shop. It’s a potential loss to the preservation community, in more ways than one.

Beginning in 1904, and every year since, workers at Colonial Brick Corporation made bricks from clay mined on site. They cut them with antique equipment and laid them by hand in beehive-shaped kilns. The painstaking process allowed the Cayuga facility to duplicate the colors, sizes, shapes, and face textures of early-twentieth century bricks. Colonial specialized in bricks used throughout the country to repair historic buildings and was the last brick maker in the nation to use coal-fired brick kilns.

Due to several factors—size and shape, raw materials, the manufacturing process—mass-produced bricks of today fall short of those needed to make seamless and attractive repairs to older brick buildings. The loss of Colonial Brick’s old facility would be keenly felt by those hoping to preserve the charm and beauty of historic brick structures.

Due to its prominent role in Indiana’s architectural heritage, the brickworks is a landmark worth saving in its own right. Dan Swartz Sr. acquired the business in 1965, and his family has overseen it ever since. The entire facility is now on the market: the factory featuring ten beehive kilns, all equipment, the current inventory, even the shale mine supplying the materials. The operation faces possible demolition if a buyer is not found. Unfortunately, demolition for new development is a possibility.

Indiana Landmarks is helping to market the property in hopes of finding a new owner who will restart brick production. The property is listed with The Swartz Group, the real estate company of Dan Swartz, Jr., for $495,000. Learn more about Colonial Brick on the company’s website or check out the sale listing here.

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