By LAUREN THOMSON, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter on August 31, 2021.
Redcliff has a brand new park that memorializes the town’s rich history of brick production.
The recently completed Redcliff Pressed Brick Park on Mitchell Street was officially opened by Mayor Dwight Kilpatrick and representatives from I-XL Ltd., previously The Redcliff Pressed Brick Co. Ltd., on Friday.
The park, which was constructed by I-XL Ltd., is on the site of its first brick plant, which was constructed in 1912 and ran until 2004. It includes various pieces of brick-making equipment on display. The remains of original period kilns are preserved under the knoll in the middle of the park.
“This was our very first plant. At one point we had plants in Regina, Winnipeg, Edmonton, Abbotsford, but this was the original plant,” said Malcolm Sissons of I-XL Ltd. “There were bits and pieces of it that were still from the original, so we decided at that point that we should preserve some of it.”
Sissons said that after consulting other professionals, including an archaeologist, they came up with the idea to collapse the kilns and leave them in place but cap them, hoping that some future archaeologist could come back and determine exactly where the kilns were.
Sissons also says he hopes to see performances on the small stage in front of a James Marshall mural.
Marshall, who worked for the brick plant as a marketer before he became a full time artist, was in attendance at the opening ceremony of the park.
“This piece was made up from two pretty nice black and white historic photographs, so the people in them were real people that worked here,” Marshall explained. “The middle panel was the brick plant when it was in its heyday with all the kilns.”
Dwight Kilpatrick, mayor of Redcliff, says this was I-XL’s way of preserving history on the location of their first plant, to commemorate an industry that was integral to establishing the town.
“Redcliff was started basically by brick, coal and natural gas,” said Kilpatrick. “In the early 1900’s they supplied all the buildings with brick, so if you go downtown Redcliff you’ll see the old Stoner Lockwood Building, which is now the museum, Canadian Bank which is now the Legion. All of that was made of brick made right here in town, and many houses in town are still standing that were made from the pressed brick of the day. It was very important, it employed a lot of people; that kept Redcliff alive. This is a reminder of what was.”
Ian McLaughlin, who worked for I-XL Ltd. for 44 years, was in attendance at the park opening, along with his wife and other friends who also work for the pressed brick factory.
“It preserves the history of a long standing industry which gave employment to a lot of us and our families,” said McLaughlin.
Lee Scheward is a member of the Redcliff Museum and Historical Society.
“The Sissons family, back in the 1980s, donated a huge display of all the different brick products that were produced at this brick factory,” said Scheward. “It shows different tools that were used, photographs and different products that were created.”
Scheward says the park is important, and hopes that it will help kids “understand what started us, why we’re on the map.”