The Story of How One Property Helped Influence The Red Brick Look of Vankleek Hill
History gives us a good excuse to look into early lives and older buildings. Here is a history of 4132 Highway 34, Vankleek Hill which was on the 2018 Christmas Home Tour organized by The Review. The Vankleek Hill & District Historical Society provides the property research for this event. Photographer Jan Amell provides the images. Enjoy a bit of local history and Christmas during our Covid-19 physical isolation.
4132 Highway 34 Vankleek Hill
Our property history for this location begins in the late 1840s when a small brick factory started-up and kept going through different owners into the 1930s. Many of the brick homes in Vankleek Hill were built using red bricks fired in these yards between the 1850s to the 1920s. Other busy brickyards included the Reasbeck Family, Guindon (Yado) Family, and the Curran Family. For the owners, farming was their primary occupation with the brickmaking a second income.
Hiram Johnson Brick Yard
Hiram Johnson purchased the property at 4132 Hwy. 34 in 1849. Our local soil is clay-based with a sandy loam topping, and in wet areas this is a perfect combination for brick-making. In 1856, as often happened in early villages where wood and coal were mainstays for heating and cooking, a fire swept through Vankleek Hill destroying, or damaging many wood frame buildings.
The hotel operated by Hiram Johnson in Vankleek Hill was severely damaged in that fire. Using bricks fired at his Highway 34 location, he rebuilt the Dominion House on the same site – the corner of Highway 34 and Main Street East, where the Creating Centre is currently located (above). The building we see today is an example of construction using the red brick from the Johnson brickyard.
The 1856 fire sparked serious fire prevention interest from many building owners. They got busy covering their wood frame buildings with brick, and turned to using brick for new construction. What a boon to the local brick business! The Vankleek Hill Museum building at 95 Main Street East (below), built in1834, is a wood frame building, and was reportedly the first to be covered in red brick after the 1856 fire.