California brick
CALIFORNIA BRICKS


Albion Pottery
Antioch Pottery Company
Mt. Diablo Sewer Pipe & Paving Brick Company
California Brick & Clay Manufacturing Company
Standard Sewer Pipe & Terra Cotta Company

History


In 1868, Isaac Nicholson, a potter from England, purchased the McMaster and Barker brick plant, at K and 2nd streets in Antioch, and converted it to manufacturing mainly chimney and sewer pipes, terra cotta, and stove linings. Hand-molded common brick were also made. The pottery was known as the Albion Pottery. Six to eight men were employed in the pottery. Clay was obtained from the local clay pit and from the Brentwood coal mine. The plant building was single story, 150 feet long and 100 feet wide. Common bricks from this plant were used in the nearby Roswell Hard residence in 1869, and probably in the Casino Hotel, a couple of blocks east. The historic Hard house is fenced so a detailed description of this brick could not be obtained. The Casino Hotel was rebuilt in 1885 and is probably a mixture of the 1850s McMaster brick and 1885 Albion brick. But because the bricks were painted, it was not possible to distinguish the two bricks. There are probably other examples of the Albion bricks in Antioch yet to be identified. The Albion Pottery closed in 1886.

Shortly afterwards, the Antioch Pottery Company was formed to operate the pottery, mainly for the manufacture of sewer pipe. This operation became known as the Antioch Pottery. There is no record of brick production from this operation. In 1896, the pottery's name was changed to the Mt. Diablo Sewer Pipe and Paving Brick Company. E. T. Maples was the plant superintendent. Clay was obtained from the foothills to the south and from its pit west of the pottery. The pottery was able to supply 12-inch, 8-inch, and 6-inch clay pipes, as well as roof tile, fire-proofing, and flower pots. Paving bricks were not made, because the pottery closed in 1897, before the company could secure the brickmaking machinery.

California Brick and Clay Manufacturing Co. brickyard
View of the California Brick & Clay Manufacturing Company's works, Antioch. From American Builders Review, 1907.


The California Brick & Clay Manufacturing Company reopened the pottery in the Fall of 1906 to manufacture yellow face brick, fine salt-glazed dark vitrified sewer pipe, chimney pipe, flue lining, electric conduit tile, and other clay products. The works became known also as the California Pottery. The company office was in the Monadnock Building in San Francisco. W. F. Barnes was president, John G. Treanor was manager, and E. T. Maple was plant superintendent.

California Brick and Clay Manufacturing Co. brickyard kilns
View of the California Brick & Clay Manufacturing Company's kilns, Antioch. From American Builders Review, 1907.


The plant consisted of a three-story building, 100 feet wide by 170 feet long, containing a large drying room and a machinery room, 70 feet by 70 feet, with pan mills, elevators, and bins. The boilers and engine were in a separate two-story building, 50 feet by 85 feet, with a drying room on the second floor for elbows, curves, traps, and chimney tops, and a molding room. In 1907, a drying shed, 300 feet long and 75 feet wide, shown in the postcard below, and a clay storage shed of a capacity of 1,500 tons were added. Three round downdraft kilns of 24 feet diameter were each connected to a smokestack and a waste-heat dryer system, which allowed production during the winter months. In 1907, three additional kilns were built as can be seen in the postcard below. White and gray clay, 40 feet thick, was mined and shipped to the plant by rail from the foothills to the south. The plant was conveniently situated on the Southern Pacific railroad.

California Brick and Clay Manufacturing Co. brickyard
Post card view of the California Brick & Clay Manufacturing Company's works, Antioch.

In 1911, the Standard Sewer Pipe & Terra Cotta Company took a four-month option on the pottery and made repairs and additions. This company had a capital stock of $1,000,000 and was based in San Francisco. The officers of the company were W. F. Barnes, H. C. Norton, E. C. Leffingwell, William Sea, Jr., and J. A. Bloch. Probably a small quantity of brick was made here between 1911 and 1913, before the company foreclosed. In 1913, the property was taken over by the Bank of Antioch.

Finally, in 1917, Louis Steiger, M. M. Miner, and M. E. Empena, took an option on the pottery and ran some product tests. Steiger and Miner were from the Steiger Pottery of South San Francisco, which had been destroyed by fire and so they were looking for a new manufacturing plant. Steiger opted for the Vallejo plant and dropped the Antioch plant. The old Antioch pottery was eventually sold and dismantled. Today an adult school stands on part of the property.


Albion Brick

Common brick is orange red to pale red, mostly uniform in color. The sides are sand struck and uneven with an irregular lip around the top edges. Top and bottom faces could not be observed for a description. Sand-molded, soft-mud process. No dimensions available.

Roswell Hard house
The Roswell Hard Residence, Antioch, was built in 1869 using Albion common brick.

Albion brick
View of Albion common brick in the walls of the Hard Residence, Antioch.


References

A New Terra Cotta and Sewer Pipe Company, American Builders Review, v. 6, no. 1, January 1907, p. 34.

Brick and Clay Record, v. 39, no. 5, 1911, p. 191.

Brick and Clay Record, v. 39, no. 4, 1911, p. 155.

Brick and Clay Record, v. 38, no. 2, 1911.

Brick and Clay Record, v. 39, no. 4, 1911, p. 154.

Brick and Clay Record, v. 43, no. 8, 1913, p. 823.

Brick and Clay Record, v. 50, no. 10, 1917, p. 977.

Brick and Clay Record, v. 51, no. 2, 1917, p. 156.

Brick and Clay Record, v. 52, no. 4, 1917, p. 340.

Clay Record, v. 9, no. 1, July 14, 1896, p. 23.

Clay Record, v. 9, no. 2, July 28, 1896, p. 19.

Crawford, J.J., Structural Materials, California State Mining Bureau 13th Report of the State Mineralogist, 1896, p. 612-641.

Slocum, W.A., History of Contra Costa County, W.A. Slocum & Co., San Francisco, 1882.

Copyright 2007 Dan Mosier

Contact Dan Mosier at danmosier@earthlink.net.