A lot of financial and sweat equity is being poured into the historic old brick-making site in Colchester.
“It’s a labor of love,” said Tim Schroll, whose wife Dev bought the site in 1990.
It’s informally known as the Brickyard, but it’s officially called the Moses King Brick & Tile Works National Historic District. It earned the national designation in 2001, making it the first such district in McDonough County.
Dev, Schroll, and many volunteers have worked over the years to restore the site, and construction classes from Western Illinois University have gained experience at the Brickyard. He said many of those students are from the Chicago area and have never seen anything quite like the Brickyard.
“I even had one student ask me ‘What’s it like to live in a fairy tale?’ And all I said was, ‘A lot of sweat and hard work.’”
To help pay for operations and maintenance, the 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization will hold its annual yard sale this weekend as part of Colchester’s Labor Day celebration. Plus, the Brickyard is holding its third summer raffle. Tickets will be sold until September 22. The drawing for a variety of prizes will be held at the Western Illinois Museum.
“This money that we raise all goes into this national historic district. There are no administrative fees -- 100% goes into it,” said Schroll.
Moses King started the brick and tile works business in 1881 and Schroll said its bricks can be found in many brick buildings in the region. Production continued for nearly 90 years. The land then sat vacant for roughly 20 years before Dev acquired it.
Schroll said several other brickyards existed in McDonough County back in the day but this is now the last site of its type in the county.
Four historic beehive kilns still stand at the Brickyard, though three of them are in shaky condition.
“We need to get some structural analysis done on the kilns because they’re very dangerous right now,” Schroll said.
He said the uncertain condition of the kilns forced him and Dev to close the site to the public except by appointment.
Schroll said the building once known as the Dog House has been converted into a single room museum to display artifacts from the Brickyard. Several other buildings also still stand, though some need roof repairs.
Schroll said the Brickyard is a unique historic and artistic treasure – a valuable asset that’s worth preserving.