California brick

Bay City Brick Company


The Bay City Brick Company was incorporated in January 1901, with a capital stock of $100,000. The officers of the company were Reuben G. Simons, John V. Simons, A.A. Hubbard, R.B. Hubbard, and H. Clarence Hubbard. The brickyard was on Corbett Avenue at the end of 24th Street in San Francisco. Their office was located at 10 Third Street and later at 693 Mission Street. Reuben G. and his son John V. Simons had formerly operated the Seventh Street Brick Works in Los Angeles. In 1900, the Simons sold their yard to the Los Angeles Brick Company. John V. Simons, a kiln burner, was first to come to San Francisco and probably was the one who located a clay deposit on Corbett Avenue, which was to become the Bay City brickyard.

From the bricks made by this company, it appears that the brickmaking material was surficial deposits that were dumped directly into the pugmill without any crushing or screening. The bricks were formed in wooden molds by hand and seasoned in a five-compartment drier before they were burned using oil in a 12-compartment continuous kiln. This operation was intermittently run between 1901 and 1912.

The Bay City brickyard was well established by the time of the 1906 earthquake, which had devastated San Francisco. The brickyard was ready to supply bricks to the rebuilding efforts in San Francisco. Among the large contracts was one for the Ferry and Cliff House Railway Company, whose 1886 car shops and powerhouse were destroyed in the 1906 earthquake. This building is currently the Cable Car Museum on the corner of Washington and Mason streets in San Francisco and provides the examples of Bay City bricks described below.

Cable Car Museum made mostly of Bay City brick
View of the Cable Car Museum made mostly of Bay City brick. Photo by Dan Mosier, 2010.

Powerhouse smokestack made of Bay City brick
View of the smokestack of the powerhouse at the Cable Car Museum. Photo by Dan Mosier, 2010.

Bay City Brick

The Bay City brick is in shades of orange red to pale red and each brick may vary in color. The surfaces are coated in sand. The form is irregular and uneven with dull edges and corners. The sides undulate and some show stack indentations. The top and bottom faces could not be fully observed but are probably uneven and rough. Some bricks may be over-burnt to black or have blackened ends or sides. Cracks and pits are present. Some bricks may have an irregular lip around the top edges as thick as a half inch. Rounded pebbles are commonly visible and protrude from the surface of the brick, especially in the ones that are weathered. Completely eroded bricks display lots of pebbles in the crumbly clay. Rounded to subangular pebbles range up to 1 inch across and constitute as much as 25 percent of the clay body. The pebbles include white quartz, white and yellow chert, gray sandstone and siltstone, and grayish black slate in a orange-red porous clay body. This brick was made using the soft-mud process. Bricks are in a range of sizes. Length 8 - 8 3/8, width 3 3/4 - 4, height 2 3/8 - 2 1/2 inches.

Bay City bricks
View of Bay City bricks in the wall of the Cable Car Museum.

Bay City bricks
View of Bay City bricks showing pebbles in the wall of the Cable Car Museum.

Side of the Bay City brick
View of the side of a Bay City brick, which shows the original brick surface.

Interior of the Bay City brick
View of the interior of the Bay City brick


Aubury, Lewis E., The Structural and Industrial Materials of California, California State Mining Bureau Bulletin 38, 1906, p. 254.

Brick and Clay Record, v. 14, no. 1, 1901, p. 54.

Clay Worker, v. 33, no. 2, February 1900, p. 184.

Federal Census Records, 1900.

Los Angeles City Directories, 1896-1898.

San Francisco Call, Big Factories That Burn Oil, June 6, 1901.

San Francisco City Directories, 1908-1912.

San Francisco Municipal Railway, Cable Car Museum, 2010.

Copyright 2014 Dan Mosier

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