California brick

Juan Bernard

Juan Bernard, 1889.
Juan Bernard, 1889.


Juan Bernard was born in 1824 at St. Marie, in the Canton of St. Tessin, Switzerland. His given name was Jean, which was often misspelled in the papers and directories as John, but he was better known as Juan. His surname was also misspelled in the papers and directories as Bermuda or Bernardo. He first worked as a contractor under the French government in Algiers, Africa, where he constructed roads and furnished bricks. In 1850, he was called to California by the gold rush. He went to San Francisco, via Cape Horn, and then went to the mines. Later he went Sonora, Mexico, with a French colony. In 1852, he arrived in Los Angeles with Edward Nand Guiol and other French pioneers. He established a brickyard on Buena Vista Street (now Broadway) at Bernard Street in Los Angeles. In 1866, he married Dona Susana Machado, the daughter of Don Agustin and Dona Romona Machado, and raised 11 children. They resided on Main Street, where the U. S. Government later built a post office and courthouse.

No description of Bernard's brickyard was found. From the brickyard location and surviving bricks, it appears that Bernard mined the soil from pits on his property, which was on the west side of what is now Broadway at Bernard Street. The material here was deposited by the Los Angeles River, which is situated just to the east of the brickyard property. The clay was dug and put into a pug mill to be mixed and tempered with water. Some screening of the material was done to eliminate large rocks in the mix. The mixture was then shoveled into wooden molds to form standard shaped bricks. The wet bricks were laid out on the ground to dry. When the bricks were sufficiently dried, they were stacked in a field kiln to be fired. The range of firing produced hard to soft bricks. The fired bricks were stacked in the yard for sale. Wagons were used to transport the bricks to the building job sites. According to Boyle Workman, Chinese were probably employed in making the bricks here.

In July 1874, it was reported in the local newspaper that Bernard had one million bricks for sale. In March 1876, Bernard reported 700,000 bricks available for sale. Bernard bricks were used primarily for building projects in the City of Los Angeles. Bernard used his bricks for his own business buildings, such as for the Bernard Block (1883), a hotel containing 100 rooms, on First Street between Main and Spring streets. Bernard supplied brick for many other buildings, such as at Riley's store on First Street and a building on San Fernando Street. He also supplied the bricks for the St. Vibiana Cathedral (1876) at Main and Second streets in Los Angeles. Brick samples from the St. Vibiana Cathedral and the brickyard site provided the description of Bernard brick below.

Bernard left the brick business around the mid-1880s. Bricks in buildings dating from 1852 to about 1885 in Los Angeles may be Bernard's. About 1873, Bernard embarked in the wine business and other enterprises. Juan Bernard passed away on January 27, 1889 at the age of 64 years, 5 months, and 7 days. The Bernard brickyard site on Broadway disappeared under commercial buildings, which are now part of Chinatown.

Bernard Brick

Bernard common brick is red to orange-red and uniform in color. Underfired brick tend to be orange-red. Form is good with straight dull edges and dull corners. Surface has a fine quartz-rich sand coating with a few visible white quartz. Sides may have stack indentations. Top face is rough and heavily pitted with a longitudinal strike. Bottom face is smooth with minor pits. Minor cracks and spalling may be present. Interior consists of a porous quartz-rich sandy clay with 10 to 20 percent subrounded to subangular white quartz, mostly 1/16 inch in diameter, but can be as much as 1/2 inch in diameter. Some of the quartz has orange staining. Rare white shale up to 1/4 inch in diameter may be present. This brick was made using the soft-mud process. Length 8, width 3 3/4 - 3 7/8, height 2 3/8 - 2 1/2 inches.

View of the side of Bernard common brick.
View of the side of Bernard common brick.

View of the side of Bernard common brick bat.
View of the side of Bernard common brick bat.

View of the end of Bernard common brick.
View of the end of Bernard common brick.
White mortar is covering the right side.

View of the bottom of Bernard common brick.
View of the bottom of Bernard common brick bat.

View of the top of Bernard common brick.
View of the rough top of Bernard common brick bat.
White mortar is covering the upper right side of bat.

View of the interior of Bernard common brick.
View of the interior of Bernard common brick.

View of the interior of Bernard common brick.
View of the interior of Bernard common brick.


An Illustrated History of Los Angeles County, The Lewis Publishing Company, Chicago, Illinois, 1889.

Bernard Machado La Cantera Vineyard, (accessed April 22, 2017).

Building Prospects, Los Angeles Herald, March 14, 1876.

Died, Los Angeles Herald, January 28, 1889.

Find A Grave, (accessed May 7, 2014).

Los Angeles City Directory, 1872.

Los Angeles City Directory, 1873.

Los Angeles City Directory, 1875.

Los Angeles Herald, December 19, 1882.

Los Angeles Herald, July 25, 1874.

Los Angeles Herald, March 4, 1883.

Los Angeles Herald, October 15, 1873.

Los Angeles Herald, September 3, 1882.

Making Room, Los Angeles Herald, November 2, 1883.

Workman, Boyle, Boyle Workman's The City That Grew, The Southland Publishing Company, Los Angeles, 1935.

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