Buildings, indeed entire cities, are said to have been built “one brick at a time.”
For the past century, Sioux City Brick & Tile, with plants both in Sioux City and Adel, has been doing just that.
Almost certainly, United Brick and Tile in Adel — a subsidiary of Sioux City Brick & Tile — accounts for the majority of interstate business that rolls through the community on a daily basis. Countless flatbed semis arrive at the plan to be loaded with brick, then head out on the nearby interstate system destined for locations in all directions far and wide.
Literally hundreds of brick and tile companies sprang up as the railroad moved west, spurring Iowa’s expansion. Bricks, and lumber, were used to construct even the earliest buildings.
While Sioux City Brick was formed in 1913, the first brick business to spring up in Adel was in 1878 when R.M. Kerns & Co. did business on the north side of the community. Other brick and tile businesses followed, including Kerns & McKissick, Adel Clay Products and United Clay Products.
Sioux City at one time had seven brick plant, operating as early as 1856.
When Sioux City Brick acquired United Clay Products in 1934, the company continued its first century of making bricks to aid in the growth of the country.
The company has remained in the Mahoney family for its entire existence. D.P. Mahoney was the company’s first owner/operator. Today, Mark Mahoney is the fourth generation Mahoney to serve as the company’s CEO.
It was D.P. Mahoney who incorporated plants in both Adel and West Des Moines into the Sioux City Brick & Tile family.
“Initially there were about 300 brick plants in Iowa,” Mark Mahoney said.
United Brick & Tile, he added, initially had 32 plants. By the 1930s that number had dwindled to 10. The plant remains one of the largest employers in Adel, even though the brick-making process has evolved tremendously through the years.
In the early periods, as many as seven different works would touch each brick during the manufacturing process.
Today, according to Hansen, that number is down to just one for the majority of the company’s products.
“Every thing is automated,” Hansen said. “The only product now that is handled by human hand is a rejected brick.”
During the past century, the company has expanded from a home-grown Iowa business to a manufacturing company known nationally.
“Our product is shipped daily and is destined for delivery in all parts of North America — from New York to California, and even Canada,” Hansen said. “We have an average of 15 or 16 trucks hauling a load of bricks out of Adel every day.”
The company recently held an open house in Adel to mark a century of business and will hold a number of events throughout the year to mark the occasion.