California brick
CALIFORNIA BRICKS


William M. Betteridge

History


The Betteridge brick was brought to my attention by Fresno artist, John Rupe, who had built an impressive scaled model of downtown Fresno. John discovered the marked brick while studying the 1881-1888 Expositor Building, located at 1031 J Street (Fulton Mall) in Fresno. This is the only known existence of Betteridge brick. The Expositor building is coated in plaster and the bricks are hidden behind a front facade.

William Myron Betteridge was recognized in his biography as among those who have aided materially in the growth of Fresno. Betteridge was born in Rochester, New York, in 1850. He was educated at Rochester and Buffalo, New York. In 1867, he left home for Stark County, Ohio, where his uncle, J. C. Coleman, a prominent contractor, taught him the trade of brick mason. In 1871, Betteridge went to Lawrence, Kansas, to help build the State University building. There, he lost all of his wages through the failure of the contractor. In May 1874, he headed for San Francisco, California, by train and arrived in 11 days. He was first employed to help build the Palace Hotel. Then in the fall of that year, he went to Napa to help build the Insane Asylum. In 1876, Betteridge returned to San Francisco to open a meat market through the help of Jeff James, a prominent wholesale butcher. Six months later, he sold this business and returned to his trade. In 1878, he went to Fresno to work as a contractor. Fires, destroying many of his early works, probably influenced him into starting a brickyard.

In 1881, Betteridge purchased land south of Fresno for a brickyard, which I have not been able to pinpoint yet. Charles De Long helped him financially in this effort and credited him for his success. Little is know about Betteridge's brickyard operation. He took surface clay from the property to manufacture his own bricks. From the bricks examined, it appears that Betteridge used the soft-mud process to mix clay and water and to mold his bricks. He used a brick press machine to make pressed common bricks. One is marked with his name in a shallow frog on one of the faces of the brick. It is not known what percentage of his bricks were marked. The type of kiln he used is also unknown. Evidently, Betteridge made bricks only for his own construction projects. An article in 1898 stated that he had refused to sell his bricks for another building project that was in need of bricks.

View of the Expositor Building, Fresno. Courtesy of John Rupe.
View of the Expositor Building, Fresno. Courtesy of John Rupe.

Betteridge bricks were used in many buildings in Fresno as well as throughout Fresno County. He is credited for building the first brick home as his residence at M and Merced streets in Fresno in 1882. This large brick house was replaced by duplexes in 1940. Some of the buildings in Fresno using Betteridge bricks include the Grand Central Hotel, the Winchell and Shankling buildings, Warner Building, Expositor Building (1881), Hughes Hotel (1887), Hughes Block, National Bank Building, Temple Ba Block and a brick building on J Street between Mariposa and Fresno streets. In 1890, he built the New Reedley Hotel at Reedley. In the construction of some of these buildings as a brick mason, Betteridge was assisted by J. C. Lucas.

In 1883, he married Margaret Mier and they had two children. In September 1889, Betteridge made a trip to see his old home in the East. His parents, William and Maria Betteridge, both natives of England and long-time residents of New York, moved to Fresno, California, after 1880. His father, William, Sr., died in 1896, and his mother, Maria, died in 1908, and both are buried in the Fresno Mountain View Cemetery. In 1918, the family moved to Los Angeles, California, where William Betteridge died in 1937.

Betteridge Bricks

Common brick is orange-red to red and mostly uniform in color. The form is irregular with dull edges and corners. On marked bricks, the bottom face is marked with a rounded rectangular frog, 5 inches long and 2 inches wide, with beveled sides. Inside the frog is the raised name BETTERIDGE on an arc that spans 4 1/2 inches and the letters stand 3/4 inch. The top face is rough and pitted. The interior clay body is finely laminated, which can make the brick easily friable and crumbly. Milky white and clear subangular quartz, less than 1/16 inch in diameter, form about 3 to 5 percent of the sandy clay body. The clay is full of tiny flashy golden muscovite flakes, less than 1/32 inch in diameter. This brick was made using the soft-mud process and repressed. Length 8 1/2, width 4, height 2 5/8 inches.

View of the marked face of the Betteridge common brick.
View of the marked face of the Betteridge common brick. Courtesy of John Rupe.

View of the sides of the Betteridge common brick.
View of the sides of the Betteridge common brick in the rear wall of the Expositor Building, Fresno.

View of the sides of the Betteridge common brick.
View of the sides of the Betteridge commom brick showing the interior clay body.

View of the face of the Betteridge common brick.
View of the unmarked face of the Betteridge commom brick. Rupe believes this came from the triangular brickwork
along the top front of the building as indicated by the triangle white paint pattern. Courtesy of John Rupe.

References

Another Good Building, The Fresno Weekly Republican, March 18, 1887.

Brick, v. 14, no. 6, 1901, p. 318.

Bulls, Jim, The New Reedley Hotel, Now Home to Uncle Harry's & El Monte, Kings River Life, May 28, 2011.

California Death Index, 1930-1939.

Federal Census Records, 1900.

Federal Census Records, 1920.

Fresno's New Hotel, The Fresno Weekly Republican, April 8, 1887.

John Rupe: Preserving history through art, Central California Magazine, September 10, 2015 (http://www.cencalilife.com/2015/09/10/85704/john-rupe-preserving-history-through-art).

Memorial and Biographical History of the Counties of Fresno, Tulare, and Kern, California, The Lewis Publishing Co., Chicago, 1892.

Modern Homes Will Replace Old Brick Structure, The Fresno Weekly Republican, March 3, 1940.

Mountain View Cemetery Index, www.interment.net/data/us/ca/fresno/mtview/mtview.htm (November 20, 2014).

New Brick Yard, The Fresno Weekly Republican, January 9, 1898.

Rupe, John, written communications, 2014.

William H. Betteridge Dies At Monrovia, Fresno Weekly Republican, October 8, 1937.

Copyright 2017 Dan Mosier

Contact Dan Mosier at danmosier@earthlink.net.