Red Wing Republican Eagle – Published October 12 2010
By Ruth Nerhaugen
It’s gone, but won’t be forgotten. On Sunday, Peter Jacobs tore down his unique garage made of conduit tile from the old Red Wing Sewer Pipe Co. factory that once operated just over the hill from his West Sixth Street home.
It’s gone, but won’t be forgotten.
On Sunday, Peter Jacobs tore down his unique garage made of conduit tile from the old Red Wing Sewer Pipe Co. factory that once operated just over the hill from his West Sixth Street home.
But first, the garage was documented and videotaped for possible inclusion in a new book or public television program.
Cathy Wurzer, a host of new Twin Cities Public Television’s “Almanac” and Minnesota Public Radio’s “Morning Edition,” was at the site Saturday with a videographer, Jacobs said.
She is considering a sequel to her “Tales of the Road: Highway 61” project, which was published by the Minnesota Historical Society Press and also released as a video.
“The first edition did not include the clay works of Red Wing,” Jacobs said. Wurzer indicated a second volume probably would include both the Red Wing pottery and sewer pipe industries.
Few structures made of sewer pipe have been found aboveground. There’s a shed with a couple of walls on 21st Street, and a wall of a Red Wing Shoe Co. building on the east side, but nothing else quite like Jacobs’ building.
It was a two-story structure, with a garage at ground level and a walk-out garden shed below. The exterior walls were the same vivid red-orange as the day the garage was built, probably in the 1920s or ‘30s.
But while the conduit tile was as sturdy as ever, the wood floor, roof and support structure had deteriorated and it was not safe to use the 20-by-20-foot square building. The Portland cement holding the blocks together was crumbling as well.
Last fall Jacobs determined he needed to replace it with a usable garage, and began looking for a buyer for the 3-foot-long, vitreous tile blocks.
Despite interest in the historical aspect of the garage, he found no takers.
Wurzer, a member of the Red Wing Collectors Society, learned about the sewer tile garage through that organization and came to document its story as part of Red Wing’s industrial history.
The next day, it came down.
“It’s gone,” Jacobs said. But it wasn’t easy.
“We had a rotten pillar,” he explained, so he put a chain on it, hooked it up to a four-wheel-drive pickup and pulled it away.
“Nothing moved,” Jacobs said. So he got in a Bobcat and started pushing the walls in.
He’s stacking the 70-pound blocks and chipping off the mortar; most are still intact. Disassembling the building revealed that all of the blocks are stamped “RED WING.”
By the end of the week, Jacobs hopes to have some of the 200-plus conduit tile blocks for sale on Craig’s List. People also can contact him online at firstname.lastname@example.org to talk about them or make an offer.
But one way or another, he doesn’t plan to keep them around for long.
He’s got a garage to build, a solar-engineered building he can actually use.
It’ll stand in the same spot as the sewer tile garage. And it’ll do double duty as a historical marker, because Jacobs plans to leave some of the blocks underground — like buried treasure, perhaps to be rediscovered by a future generation of archeologists.
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