California brick

Ah Louis


Ah Louis, native of Canton, China, set up one of the first kilns in the San Luis Obispo area for making bricks about 1885. His brickyard was located one mile west of San Luis Obispo on the road to Bishop's Peak. Surficial loam was hand-molded into bricks and air dried. Bricks were fired in open kilns. Wood was used as fuel. In 1896, eight Chinese workers made 800,000 bricks per year for the local market. Good examples of this brick can be seen in the Ah Louis Store at Palm and Chorro streets, Railroad Square Building at 1800 Santa Barbara St., Carnegie Library, and the Johnson Building, San Luis Obispo. His bricks were also used in the South Pacific Coast Railway roundhouse, courthouse, and east wing of the mission. Ah Louis ceased making bricks about 1906.

Ah Louis store
Ah Louis Store, San Luis Obispo, built in 1885 using Ah Louis bricks.

Ah Louis Brick

Common brick is orange to orange-red, with a rough sanded texture. Bricks are irregular in shape and size and some display a lip around the top edge. Edges are irregular and corners are rounded or broken. Large pits up to 3/4-inch are common on all sides. Transverse lines are prominent on the side faces, and longitudinal strike lines on the top face. Some display yellow flashing and black overburns. Soft-mud process. Length 8 1/4 - 8 1/2, width 4 1/8, height 2 1/4 inches.

Ah Louis brick
Ah Louis bricks in the northeast wall of the Ah Louis Store.

Ah Louis brick
Ah Louis bricks in the southwest wall of the Ah Louis Store.

Ah Louis brick
Top face of Ah Louis bricks, Ah Louis Store.


Ah Louis Store San Luis Obispo, San Luis Obispo County, A History of Chinese Americans in California: Historic Sites, (accessed 2004).

Aubury, Lewis E., The Structural and Industrial Materials of California, California State Mining Bureau Bulletin 38, 1906, p. 255.

Crawford, J.J., Structural Materials, California State Mining Bureau 13th Report of the State Mineralogist, 1896, p. 618.

Copyright 2004 Dan Mosier

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