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Badlands brick

It seems to me, that it is so easy to get focused on the terrain, the wildlife and the beauty of Western North Dakota, that I often miss the more metropolitan moments – like badlands brick.

The architecture of most of North Dakota is pragmatic, like the state capital. It’s there for work, and not to win art contests.

The same goes for buildings across the state – at least until you look at some of the brickwork. Incredible craftsmanship translates into artwork adorning brick buildings from early last century.

brick buildings at Belfield

Looking north up Main Street in Belfield, the popularity of brick is apparent.

In towns such as Dickinson, Richardton, Taylor, and Belfield, brick buildings are everywhere.  Built a century ago, they’re still standing, still strong.

Badlands brickwork includes the town or Richardton

Richardton’s main street is lined with buildings with the same consistent cut and color of brick.

 

There’s a reason so many buildings in Western North Dakota are badlands brick. The different types of clay for the brick buildings are nearby natural resources. 

Badlands brick in Dickinson

Downtown Dickinson — the craftsmanship of brickwork.

Using Natural Resources

That’s one reason why many of the bricks are similar style and color. Settlers and early North Dakotans were good at using available natural resources.

badlands brick cottonwood logs

Locals from the Dickinson area set their hands to sawing cottonwood logs for the Theodore Roosevelt Presidential Library replica log cabin.
The original, along the banks of the Little Missouri River, were also cottonwood, and so have long been gone.

 

For example in Billings County, Roosevelt’s Elkhorn ranch used nearby cottonwood logs from near the Little Missouri River.

 

In Dickinson and nearby communities, clay and claystone were abundant resources. It is said that North Dakota’s heyday of brick making lasted from 1895 to 1914. Here’s a lengthy resource of information about North Dakota clay, brick and pottery.

badlands brick main street belfield

Main Street Belfield

Badlands brick dickinon

In Dickinson, the cornice, corbel, and windows draw attention.

badlands brick belfield police

The Belfield Police station got a fresh facelift and restoration.

 

 

 

 

Brickmakers

Over the last 125 years, brick plants were everywhere in North Dakota, with the center of brick-making in Grand Forks.  The plants made brick from the nearby resources of clay and claystone. That’s why in western North Dakota, there were badlands brick plants in Bismarck, Mandan, New Salem, Sims, Hebron, Richardton and two in Dickinson. Two other plants, one in Dickinson and one in Marmarth also used native clay for other products. The state was in the brick-making business at Bismarck and the State Pen. 

Badlands Brick

The “Brickhouse” is a part of the North Dakota State Penitentiary.
100 years ago, Convicts worked as laborers at the State Brick Yard plant near the State Penitentiary at Bismarck.

Today, the brick plant at Hebron is a multi-state company.  Its history goes back to the beginning of brickmaking in North Dakota, even supplying bricks for the Fargo Dome.

Watford City’s latest entry into the beautiful architecture of the Badlands looks like this.

What can you tell us about the bricks used in your community?

While you can see the natural resource of clay up and down the main streets of Western North Dakota, you may also check out the pottery work of Sarah Snavely in Bowman,

Robin Reynolds in Hebron and

Tama Smith of Beach

But, that’s another story we’re working on. Stay tuned for more!

Got pics of brick buildings in your town? We’d love to see examples.  Or share this with a friend. Just use the easy sharing button

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Want to learn more about badlands bricks, clay, and pottery??  Check out these links.  It’s where we got some of our information:

http://www.prairiepublic.org/radio/dakota-datebook?post=64120

https://www.dmr.nd.gov/ndgs/documents/Publication_List/pdf/MiscSeries/MS-79.pdf

This site also includes good historic photos.

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