A newly formed nonprofit in Jackson County hopes to earn grant money to save the former Medora Brick Plant through a nationwide contest.

The Medora Brick Plant and Historical Sites committee, formerly known as Save the Medora Brick Plant, recently released a video showcasing a brief history of the plant and the role it played in the community for most of the 20th century.

The video also highlights some of the proposed plans for the six-acre site southwest of town.

It was made to meet the guidelines of USA Today Network’s A Community Thrives contest. The contest prizes include a $100,000 grant for the winner and two $50,000 grants for the runner-ups.

“The first thing we need to get it is to get selected into the final 10,” said Nick Walden, a local artist who was asked by the committee to help with the production of the video. Walden also narrates the video.

The contest is divided into three categories: Wellness, arts and culture and education, and 10 finalists will be picked in each category. Videos can only be entered in one category, and the final three will be selected by a panel of judges. The Medora video will be entered in the arts and culture category.

Walden said making it to the final 10 in that category is important because the video will then be judged on its merits and won’t be selected because its popular.

“To do that, we need everybody,” he said. “They need to vote, vote, vote. We have a chance if we can get to the top 10 judging, but we need everyone to reach that goal.”

Online voting for the video starts Wednesday and runs through May 12 at act.usatoday.com. Select the Save the Medora Brick Plant video to vote for it. The video can be viewed before voting begins.

Arann Banks, executive director of the Jackson County Visitor Center, said voting is important because without the help of everyone, the video will not make it to the final 10.

“Everyone needs to tell everyone they know to tell everyone they know to vote every day,” Banks said. “Save the link after you’ve found it and vote again and again every day.”

The video came together for the committee fairly quickly the committee found out about it from Greg Sekula, director of the Indiana Landmarks Southern Regional Office in Jeffersonville.

The video was produced with the help of Bill Klaes of Klaes Image Productions in Seymour.

Walden said winning one of the grants would go a long way toward making improvements at the plant, which opened Aug. 2, 1904, and continued to produce bricks until the day before Thanksgiving in 1990. A crew of less than 60 produced 54,000 bricks a day for years. Medora brick was used for in many buildings around the Midwest, including those on the campus of colleges and universities.

Students from Ball State University designed several examples of what the plant could look like, given enough funding.

“It’s going to take a lot of community involvement, and that’s what we’re seeing,” Banks said.

The Medora community and the Medora Brick Plant and Historical Sites organization have made several attempts to gain money, and Banks said the group may soon be starting a Kickstarter or similar online funding drive to raise money.

Banks and Walden both said the tourism and sightseeing that a completed brick plant restoration would bring would be a blessing to the community of Medora and Jackson County.

“The brick plant has a truly awesome history, and it is a major staple of the industry and the area,” Walden said. “Along with the covered bridge, round barns and other attractions, it can help breathe new life into the area.”

At one time, the plant employed about a sixth of the people living in the small southwestern Jackson County town.

Banks said kilns used in the brick-making process in Indiana continue to disappear making the future of the 11 remaining brick kilns at the Medora Brick Plant important.

“The kilns will be the final piece needed to create a true history tourism nest for the community,” she said, highlighting the other local attractions available to people in the area including the history Medora Covered Bridge.

The four proposed designs for the site soon will be on display at the Jackson County Visitor Center in Seymour.

On the Web

Voting for the USA Today Network’s A Community Thrives contest begins Wednesday and continues through May 12 at act.usatoday.com.

To vote for the Medora Brick Plant, select the Save the Medora Brick Plant video.

If you go

The Medora Brick Plant and Historical Sites committee, formerly known as Save the Medora Brick Plant, meets at 6 p.m. on the first Monday of each month at the Medora Senior Citizens Center at 52 W. Main St. Meetings are open to the public.

Author photo
Aaron Piper is a photographer and reporter for The (Seymour) Tribune. He can be reached at apiper@tribtown.com or 812-523-7057.