The Biesanz Farmhouse
The Biesanz farm house was built in the early 1870’s with bricks that were fired in kilns located just 300 feet from the house. Civil War veteran, Philip Biesanz, purchased the brickyard which at its height produced over three million red sand mold bricks per year with clay harvested on the farm. The home remained in the Biesanz family for over 130 years until it was purchased in 2002 by a developer at which time it was completely renovated. In 2007, we purchased the home and opened the Village House Inn. The picture above, circa 1910, shows the farm house and rows of stacked lumber which were used to fire the kilns and the Mississippi Bluffs in the background.
In the photo below of St. Mary’s University, circa 1947, the Biesanz farmhouse is located behind a stand of trees along the highway just above St. Mary’s Hall, the building on far right.
Excerpted from the Winona Daily News Nov. 19, 1955
Bricks made at the Biesanz yards are known as sand-mould, soft mud brick and are used in all types of construction work. There are facilities at the yards for the manufacture of up to three million bricks a season (because of the manufacturing process used, operations are suspended during the winter months) and in recent years the production has been in the neighborhood of a million a year. Surface clay, running to a depth of about 25 feet, used in the manufacture of the brick is taken from a 1,200-foot area near the yards. The clay is loaded by shovel into trucks which bring it to crushers. From the crushers the material is fed into mixers where water is added to bring the clay to the consistency of dough. Placed in sand-mould machines, the clay is pressed to form and then emptied in groups of six onto pallets which are carried automatically by cables to drying sheds which have a capacity of 250,000 brick. The bricks are dried in the sun and air for periods ranging from 10 days to two weeks before they are carried on lift trucks to the kilns. There are four kilns, each 14 feet high, 22 feet wide and 60 feet long, into which 250,000 bricks can be placed. After the kilns have been loaded fires are started in the 16 forced draft fire boxes that line each side of each kiln. The burning continues to 10 days and 10 nights with another six days required for cooling after the burning has been completed. Approximately 100 tons of coal are required for each burning and the temperature in the kilns ranges from 1,800 to 2,000 degrees. The Biesanz brick yards delivers its product within a radius of 50 miles and employs a crew of 10 men to furnish bricks for customers throughout this area.