|City/Town: • Peru|
|Location Class: • Industrial|
|Year Built: • 1904 | Year Abandoned: • 1930's 2007 • 1930's 2007|
|Status: • Abandoned|
|Photojournalist: • Emily Cowan|
Pearl (Peru) Brick Company
According to Sanborn maps, it was originally called Pearl Brick Company but throughout its lifespan and many different names, one always stuck. The Peru Brick Company was established in 1904 with the first few buildings being built with Coffeyville bricks which have evidently now started to crumble. As of 1905, the lead crew were: Mr. Allen Manager, B.F. Nichols Pitt Manager, H.L. Crocker Engineer, W. Robinson Timekeeper, and M.C. Sawtell Foreman. On average they were turning out around 21,000 bricks per week.
The Midland Brick Company
It’s most notable era started in the summer of 1909 when The Midland Brick Company bought the brick factory. Almost immediately work commenced on making the factory the best in the country and bringing in new machinery and workers. A defect in the cut off wire caused the bricks to have a very sharp edge after being fired, this caused bricklayers and potential clients to discriminate against the Peru Brick Co., something Midland aimed to fix immediately. The plant began operation on July 13, 1910, with a crew of twenty-five men. A year later it shut down again for additions and improvements. Instead of being built with Coffeyville bricks, there was finally enough Midland Brick Company bricks produced to build the new structures keeping costs low.
A side track was put in for the Sante Fe railway to be able to make shipments directly from the plant. The plant had everything it needed right on the grounds, shale was brought down from the hill through tunnels, there was a mule barn, a timekeepers hut, a four-hole bricked outhouse, and a shower station. The showers were of most interest because back then running water was not readily available in households. The plant had provided its own natural gas water heater and a shower station so that men could get cleaned up before heading home. An office was arranged in the corner room over the bank. The first brick of The Midland Brick Co. after reopening was turned out on January 17, 1912. The plant at this time had a capacity of 40,000 bricks per day. Whistles blew at 6:45 a.m. to start the workday with a thirty-minute lunch break at noon and quitting time at five.
Mid-Continent Clay Company
The next reign of the Peru Brick Plant came as Mid-Continent Clay Company. Putting Peru back on the map as one of the best manufacturers in brick and clay products. A completely new plant was being installed in 1921. A company of different trades they manufactured high-grade vitrified terra cotta roofing tiles, and face bricks in different colors and textures. By 1923 the company had decided to solely focus on the tile side of their business, giving up production of face bricks due to the rise in the tile business. Shortly after the company just could not stay afloat and it was sold to Coffeyville Ludowici-Celadon in June 1924. It would continue to be used as a tile plant until around the 1930s when demand would plummet and the plant would be shut down and sold.
The Joslin family bought the property in 1943 including the plant and administrative building. Senora “Nora” Joslin and her husband Herbert H. Joslin were the new owners of the infamous brick plant of Peru. They moved into the administrative building of the brick plant and ran cattle on the rest of the property. Once Herbert passed away in 1967 Nora continued working the farm on the property and maintained ownership of it until her passing in March of 2007. The administrative office that was turned into a house was abandoned as well as the rest of the property after Nora’s passing. The property was passed down to grandson Greg Joslin who is currently the Mayor of Peru. Greg told me about the vandals and thieves he’s had to deal with since then “There has been about one break-in every week since 2007, they’ve stolen almost everything. The air conditioners are gone, furniture, I had two historical pictures of the brick plant blown up to big poster sizes and framed, those were stolen too.”
Battle in the Brickyard
Scattered on the grounds of the compound were multitudes of shell casings, unused bullets and on one of two buildings left in decent shape the words “Cafe De Peru”. That is because for seventeen years (2003-present) the World War II Battle Reenactment has taken place at the abandoned Peru Brick Factory. It is typically a two-day event with sometimes up to three-hundred actors. It costs $20 with a hot breakfast and lunch provided and primitive camping on the grounds.
Article by AKS Photojournalist Emily Cowan.
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“17 Feb 1923, 2 – Kansas Construction News at Newspapers.com.” Newspapers.com, www.newspapers.com/image/518169532/?terms=mid-continent%2Bclay%2Bcompany.
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Hartung, Bob, and Erik Runge. “Battle in the Brickyard.” World War II History Center Foundation, wwiihistorycenter.org/wwiirc/events/peru.html.
“Sanborn Fire Insurance Map from Peru, Chautauqua County, Kansas.” The Library of Congress, www.loc.gov/resource/g4204pm.g4204pm_g030581912/?r=-0.004,0.889,0.384,0.297,0.