Bakersfield Sandstone Brick Company
In 1883, James Curran, a native of New York, came to Bakersfield, California and purchased
a few acres of land on the outskirts of town. He learned the trade of brickmaking from his
father who was a brickmaker in Illinois. Curran was the first to manufacture common brick in
Bakersfield and supplied most of the bricks in town. He probably fired the bricks in a field
kiln using wood as fuel.
By 1899, Curran had partnered with Charles J. Lindgren, a native of Sweden who had immigrated to
the United States in 1879. Their yard was known as Curran and Lindgren.
During the summer of 1899, they built a 40-burner kiln, which used crude oil as fuel. A company
was organized under the name of the Bakersfield Sandstone Brick Company in 1903. Curran was the manager
and W. S. Tevis was president of the company. This company worked a clay deposit in East
Bakersfield on 40 acres of land, located at 501 Sonora Street, Kern (Bakersfield). An alluvial silt
was excavated to a depth of 10 to 12 feet with a clam-shell excavator. Some clay was also
purchased from the East Side Canal Company. Five-ton dump trucks hauled the clay from the pit
to the plant.
The plant had a pug mill with a Kommick-Elbring grinder and a Martin press. The wet bricks were
dried on steel trucks either in the open or under sheds. The bricks were dried in seven days
and then placed in field kilns. The kilns had a capacity of 40,000 brick per day. Firing was started
with gas and finished with oil, atomized with steam. Thermo-electric pyrometers were used for
recording temperatures. At the firing holes, the finishing temperature was 2,100 degrees F. Two
feet above the arch the temperature was 1,840 degrees F. Two feet below the top the temperature
was 1,750 degrees F. The plant employed 10 to 25 men and operated only during the dry months,
about 10 months out of the year.
Two classes of common brick were made. Sandstone brick, which sold for $9 to $15 per 1,000 depending
on the quality, and clay brick, which sold for $9 per 1,000. Hollow building tile was also made in
This company operated with Curran as manager until 1942 when it closed the plant for the war. The
plant did not reopen until 1949, with its office at 315 E. 18th Street, Bakersfield. But only
after one year, the plant was permanently closed. The site of the plant has been developed by
modern industrial buildings. Although the plant is long gone, the company is still active as
dealers in building materials. In 2007, Dixieline Lumber Company of San Diego purchased the brick
company to continue supplying building products in the Bakersfield region.
Common Clay Brick
Common brick is orange to pale orange-red, with a sand struck surface. White flash in transverse
sections appears on some brick with minor pits. This brick contains abundant subangular white clasts of granitic
rocks, quartz, and feldspar, up to 1/2 inch across and constituting about 25 percent of the volume.
The top face displays transverse strike marks. Edges are nearly sharp and straight, but often chipped,
and corners are dull. This brick was made using the sand-molded, soft-mud process. Example shown is from the
building at 1212 18th St., Bakersfield. Length 8 1/8, width 3 7/8, height 2 1/2 inches.
View of the side of a Bakersfield common brick.
Close up of the Bakersfield common brick.
American Ceramic Society Bulletin, v. 31, no. 3, 1952, p. 126.
Copyright © 2007 Dan Mosier
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