The Mader Brick Yard In State Road Coulee

In State Road Coulee

“…The Mader family did some farming but later on their chief occupation was making brick. They furnished most of the brick for many of the old buildings in La Crosse.”(1)

Frank Mader, Jr. told about the brick yard in a La Crosse Tribune article dated July 1, 1951.

“…Bricks made by the Maders were used in buildings from the river’s bank to Sixth Streets, including St, Joseph’s Cathedral and also St, Rose Convent farther out.(2) Many structures made of Mader brick still stand as sturdy as they were when they were erected.”
“The Maders provided employment for a crew of 30 which was considered a big payroll back then. Old records show that many men, later to rise to prominence in the business world of La Crosse, made their start helping to manufacture Mader bricks with which much of the city had been built.”

Frank Mader (Dominick’s grandson) said, “The old streets of La Crosse were made with Mader brick.”

The manufacture of brick was an important industry in the development of early LaCrosse. There was a great demand for brick before lumber became the chief building source. The Valley was rich in clay ideal for making brick, the brick being a substantial red sand mold brick.

The clay was soaked in vats overnight and mixed with a tempering wheel operated by horse power. The brick was molded by hand, dried in hacks on the yard, and burned in scove kilns. It required seven to eight days to burn the brick and about one-fourth of a cord of wood for each thousand brick burned. The cutting and aging of wood from the surrounding hillsides was the chief occupation in the winter.

It is not known when David and his sons began manufacturing brick on David’s land. Gumble and Bloomer opened a brick yard on neighboring land in 1858. The Maders could have learned the brick business on this brick yard, starting their own yard, ca. 1860-65. It is known that the Maders were early brick makers and that it was before 1870 when St. Joseph’s Cathedral was built and the cornerstone for St. Rose Convent was laid.

The Mader brothers operated the brick yard as David would have been too old to take an active part in it. When he sold it to Theodore in 1878 he was 80 years old.

(1) Pummel, Reminiscences of Early La Crosse (La Crosse: Liesenfield Press 1928) p. 20.
(2) The brick house at 1903 Barnebee Road in La Crosse is built from Mader brick of the old St. Joseph Cathederal. The owner who built the house personally cleaned all the brick by hand. (La Crosse Tribune). Mader brick was used in the oldest section of St. Rose Convent.