Why All the Brick Buildings in Little Falls, MN?

Last Sunday, January 24, 2010, fire broke out inside Iron Hills Pawn Shop in Little Falls, MN. The fire spread to Bill’s Decorating behind the pawn shop and eventually decimated the interiors of both businesses. The Morrison County Record has more particulars on the fire.

My husband kindly went out into the cold on my request and took some photos of the buildings after the fire.

Front of Iron Hills Pawn Shop, Little Falls, MN, January 26, 2010
After the fire - front of Iron Hills Pawn Shop, Little Falls, MN, January 26, 2010
After the fire - north side of Iron Hills Pawn Shop/Bills Decorating, Little Falls, MN, January 26, 2010.
After the fire - north side of Iron Hills Pawn Shop/Bill's Decorating, Little Falls, MN, January 26, 2010.
After the fire - Bills Decorating, Little Falls, MN, January 26, 2010.
After the fire - Bill's Decorating, Little Falls, MN, January 26, 2010.
After the fire - Bills Decorating & Iron Hills Pawn Shop, north side of building, Little Falls, MN, January 26, 2010. Isnt the heavy equipment impressive?
After the fire - Bill's Decorating & Iron Hills Pawn Shop, north side of building, Little Falls, MN, January 26, 2010. Isn't the heavy equipment impressive?
View of the sidewalk after the fire, Bills Decorating & Iron Hills Pawn Shop, Little Falls, MN, January 26, 2010. Theres evidence of fire damage on the sidewalk.
View of the sidewalk after the fire, Bill's Decorating & Iron Hills Pawn Shop, Little Falls, MN, January 26, 2010. There's evidence of fire damage on the sidewalk.
After the fire - back (east) side of Bills Decorating & Iron Hills Pawn Shop, Little Falls, MN, January 26, 2010. If you look closely, you can see evidence of the roof damage in this photo.
After the fire - back (east) side of Bill's Decorating & Iron Hills Pawn Shop, Little Falls, MN, January 26, 2010. If you look closely, you can see evidence of the roof damage in this photo.

What’s interesting to note about the aftermath of this fire is how little the exterior structures show the damage. That’s the beauty of brick and cement block. They’re fireproof.

Downtown Little Falls is known for its primarily yellow-brick buildings. The yellow brick was produced locally at three brickyards that were located on the western edge of town. While yellow brick was easy to get, that wasn’t the only reason so many buildings in downtown Little Falls are made of brick.

In 1889, the City Council, including Mayor Nathan Richardson, passed a fire protection ordinance that “prohibited the construction of wooden buildings within a particular geographical area of the city.  …. The ordinance further required that “all buildings and other structures erected within said limits shall be constructed of stone, brick, iron or other fire proof materials ….”” (pg. 84, A Big Hearted Paleface Man: Nathan Richardson & The History of Morrison County, MN)

Richardson had suffered a number of fires (home and business) in his life, so this ordinance would have been of special interest to him.

Even though the Iron Hills/Bill’s Decorating building appears to be a later addition* to downtown Little Falls and the 1889 fire protection ordinance may have been superseded by other building codes when it was built, you can easily see the value of that original ordinance. Those old-timers knew a thing or two.

*(Most of the yellow brick buildings were built from the late 1880s to 1915 or so).

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