Down the Road - Sergeant Bluff: A Century of Brickmaking

We continue our trip down the road to Sergeant Bluff, Iowa where a building boom is creating a bright future for the community. But a building boom that happened years ago provided an early foundation for the city's growth. Since 1856 the hills surrounding Sergeant Bluff, known as The Loess Hills, provided an enormous supply of rich, clay deposits for Brickmaking. At one point there were two brickyards in Sergeant Bluff, and many others across the area. Sioux City Brick and Tile has been owned and operated by the Mahoney family since 1913 and in 1964 they built their first tunnel kiln in Sgt. Bluff. "In 1913, the company was a merger 7-brick plants in the Sioux City area. At that time, my grandfather was the son-in-law of one of those brick plant owners," said Sioux City Brink and Tile Chairman Norm Mahoney Norm is the 4th generation of his family to get into the brick business, and he's seen a lot of growth in the company. Sioux City Brick and Tile is nationally recognized for their exceptional brick making. The company offers a variety of colors and styles for their bricks, it's one of the many reasons they're so popular. "I think in bad times, being part of a family owned operation has really helped us a lot," said General Manager Denny Johnson. "I think there's a special interest in keeping the plant running with a family owned operation versus a large conglomerate that might close the doors during hard times." I had to be extra careful walking around the plant, I got dust all over myself and broke a sweat from the heat of the kiln. The clay that makes that dust is one of the many reasons their bricks are so superior to others. According to Mahoney, "the Sgt. Bluff clay is very unique in the sense that it's a very plastic fire clay type material. It was the best clay of any of the different deposits around this area. So, that's where the modern plants were built." The plant in Sergeant Bluff has operated since 1997 and currently employs about 80 people.

Sioux City Brick makes more than a hundred different colors of brick, in various styles and sizes. Its bricks are used to build everything from skyscrapers in New York City to schools in Illinois, and homes in the suburbs and communities across the country.