Claybank Brick Plant celebrates Heritage Day as funding cuts threaten future
Tucked away in the hills of southern Saskatchewan is the Claybank Brick Plant, one of the last of its kind in North America.
“Brick plants across North America have all disappeared, they’ve been demolished. Thousands of them are gone,” construction historian, Frank Korvemaker said.
Built in 1912, the bricks manufactured within its walls still grace the facades of many buildings across the country, including the Chateau Frontenac hotel in Quebec.
While the plant shut down in 1989 it was designated as a national historic site in 1994. Once a year the plant comes back to life with its annual heritage day celebration.
This year saw hundreds from across the province travel back in time with brick plant tours, demonstrations and rides out to the clay canyons.
“If you walk through the doors here in 1960 and you walk in here in 2018, it’s not a lot different,” caretaker Dan Flegel said.
Flegel has fond memories of the plant in its glory days having started working there was he was 18-years-old and today he continues to work at the grounds as a caretaker.
“There’s just something about the place that tugs on your heart strings,” he said.
But as much as things have stayed the same, years of wear and tear are starting to show and with cuts to funding from the provincial government, the sites future is uncertain.
“Some of the kilns are starting to fall apart, it’s sort of like getting old- a few more wrinkles, maybe some hair gone- or roofs in this case,” Flagel said.
The site relies on funding from the Saskatchewan Heritage Foundation to keep its doors open. While the facility generates some money from tourism, it’s not enough to pay for ongoing repairs and upkeep.
“One of the cutbacks [the government] has done is in the heritage community to the point where the Heritage Foundation decided not to fund the Claybank operation at all. It wasn’t just a slight reduction, it was a 100 per cent cut in support, so that has had a major impact of the ability of the society to operate its programs,” Korvemaker said.
“Once our history is gone it can never be recovered,” Moose Jaw—Lake Centre—Lanigan MP, Tom Lukiwski said. “I would hate to see this particular site ignored to the point where it would be gone forever.”
For Flegel, it’s a concern he echos as he hopes the plant survives long enough for his grandchildren to be able to tour and see the place their grandfather once worked.
© 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.