The OES visited the Nelsonville Brick Plant on April 6, 2002. While on our way to Moonville Tunnel, we came across this old brick plant just beyond Nelsonville’s police station. Previous to Nelsonville’s brick plant being constructed, bricks were usually made on the construction site for specific homes or buildings as needed. The first brick plant in Nelsonville was built in 1877. The brick plant we visited was built as an expansion of that plant in 1880. These structures were down-draft kilns, meaning the air would heat up, go up to the ceiling and then be sucked through a hole in the floor and out of the smokestack.
Nelsonville Block produced bricks for sidewalks, roads, buildings, and water/sewer systems in the Hocking Valley region. Over 120 men were employed in Nelsonville’s five brick plants during the peak of the industrial revolution when demand for brick was high. The bricks fired at this particular plant gained worldwide recognition in 1904 when the paving brick “Nelsonville Block” won first prize at the World’s Fair in St. Louis. Concrete and asphalt slowly began to replace the demand for brick around the time of World War One and by 1940, the Nelsonville Brick Plant kilns permanently closed. Nelsonville Park was established in 1979 to preserve the site and the old kilns were restored. Nelsonville Block can still be spotted in older neighborhoods in addition to new developments that are reusing old brick, such as Easton Town Center in Columbus.
UPDATE: When driving past the Nelsonville Brick Plant in 2006, we noticed that one of the brick kilns had collapsed. We have learned since then that a large tree had fallen onto the kiln, damaging it. Workers collected the fallen bricks and there were plans to repair the structure, but the kiln had been completely removed by the fall of 2015.
Location Information: Public Park
The Nelsonville Brick Plant is located in Nelsonville Park on State Route 278 in Nelsonville; Athens County.