Laying the Foundation
On Memorial Day, five months after receiving title to the property, the newly formed nonprofit group Medora Brick Plant and Historical Sites joined community supporters and former employees to celebrate progress in its work to transform the former brick plant into a unique park paying homage to one of the small rural community’s largest former industries.
In 1906, the Medora Shale Brick Company built a plant in the town southwest of Seymour in Jackson County. The surrounding hills yielded clay for brickmaking, while the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad line provided transportation for the finished goods.
In its heyday, the plant employed a workforce of 50 men and produced 54,000 bricks per day. The complex included twelve round, domed kilns, a small office building, a brick-drying building, and storage sheds. The company made paving bricks in the early years, but by the 1920s the business expanded,producing wall bricks for buildings on the campuses of Purdue University, Ball State University, and the University of Kentucky, among many others.
The Medora plant continued to manufacture bricks by hand using its original kilns until 1992. When production halted, the company sold the property to a local buyer. Nature began to overtake the unused kilns and outbuildings, and increasing decline over the next several years landed the site on Indiana Landmarks’ 10 Most Endangered list in 2004. We worked with the owner to market the six-acre site to a buyer who could repurpose it — a major challenge since adapting vintage brick kilns requires a particularly creative solution.
In the meantime, an ad hoc group of volunteers organized to promote preservation of the historic site. They recruited landscape architecture students from Ball State University to develop a series of concept plans reinventing the property as a park and interpretive center.
Using grants from Indiana Landmarks and the Jackson County Visitor Center, the Medora group hired Springpoint Architects of Bloomington to assess the plant’s historic buildings — including the signature “bee hive” kilns and smokestacks — and fine-tune concept plans for the site.
The group, now an officially designated nonprofit, is continuing cleanup at the site and hopes to start preliminary stabilization this year. For more information, follow the group on Facebook at Save the Medora Brick Plant.
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