California brick
CALIFORNIA BRICKS


Bodem-Jensen Brick Company

Modesto Concrete Block and Brick Company

History


In 1920, two Modesto carpenters, Chris C. Jensen and Matt Bodem, established a brickyard under the name of the Modesto Concrete Block and Brick Company. The partnership was also known as Bodem-Jensen Brick Company. The location of the yard is unknown, but very likely somewhere on the outskirts of Modesto, Stanislaus County, California. A possible yard location might have been a property owned by Jensen on Block 469, Lots 28 and 29, which is northwest of town.

Modesto Concrete Block and Brick Company advertisement. Modesto Evening News, 1922.
Modesto Concrete Block and Brick Company advertisement. Modesto Evening News, 1922.

Chris Christensen Jensen was born in Denmark about 1877. He immigrated to the United States in 1897 and obtained his citizenship in 1926. He married Romina G. (Mina) Petersen at Cedar Rapids, Iowa, in 1903. They were separated in 1920 and divorced in 1926. Jensen was a carpenter by trade. Matt Bodem was born in Wisconsin in 1877. He was married to Gertrude and they had two daughters. Bodem was a carpenter and building contractor.

Modesto Concrete Block and Brick Company advertisement. Modesto Evening News, 1922.
Modesto Concrete Block and Brick Company advertisement. Modesto Evening News, 1922.

From 1920 to 1923, Bodem and Jensen made concrete blocks and bricks for their own use in their contracting business. It is not known where their blocks and bricks were used. Their advertisements targeted brick homes. One surviving example of their brick has been found at a mission-style house built by Jensen on Madera Street in Modesto. I'm grateful to the owner who allowed me to photograph the bricks. Unfortunately, most of the bricks were covered with stucco or paint, so a complete description is not available. One of the advertisements indicated that a Helm brick machine was used to make bricks. This was a machine used to power-press cement bricks and blocks up to 24 inches in length and 4 inches in width.

The chimney top in the same house appears to be made of concrete blocks of standard brick size. The blocks are painted red, which masked the natural color, but the material looks like gray concrete on the interior walls of the chimney top. The exterior surface appears rough and pitted as would be found on the surface of concrete blocks. In the yard were examples of concrete bricks that are described below. It appears that Bodem and Jensen also manufactured an unusual concrete brick that was made by an extruding machine with marks similarly found on extruded clay bricks.

Buildings or homes in Modesto constructed by Bodem and Jensen from 1920 to 1923 are likely to contain concrete blocks or clay bricks. After closing the brickyard, Jensen went to work for the West Side Furniture Company in 1924, while Bodem continued working as a building contractor.

Bodem-Jensen Bricks

Common Bricks

Bodem-Jensen common brick is pale orange-red and mottled in color. Form is good with straight dull edges and dull corners. The surface is flat with minor pits. A thin irregular lip 1/8 inch thick may be present along the top edges. On the surface can be seen dark orange-red clay with rounded white and gray coarse sand grains. The character of the faces could not be described because they were covered by thick coats of paint. Interior clay body description is not available. Length 8 - 8 1/4, width 4, height 2 3/4 inches.

View of the sides and ends of the Bodem-Jensen common brick.
View of the sides and ends of the Bodem-Jensen common brick.

View of the sides of the Bodem-Jensen common brick.
View of the sides of the Bodem-Jensen common brick. Bricks are painted red.

View of the end of the Bodem-Jensen common brick, showing the natural color of the exposed brick.
View of the end of the Bodem-Jensen common brick, showing the natural color of the exposed brick.

Concrete Bricks/Blocks

I don't usually include concrete bricks on these pages, but these unusual concrete bricks look so similar to clay bricks that they could be easily mistaken for clay brick if not examined closely. The concrete bricks have the shape and size of common brick. Even arch-shaped forms were made for use in archways. The surface has been colored with a brick-red color. The surface is rough and pitted as would be commonly found on concrete blocks. Coarse granular grains of sand are visible in the gray cement. A solid concrete brick displays stack indentions on the larger faces similar to that found on clay bricks. Solid brick has length 8 1/2 and width 3 3/4 inches. A 3-hole perforated concrete brick displays moderate-angled curved wire-cut marks, indicating that these concrete bricks were extruded and cut. The holes are 1 inch in diameter. Perforated brick has length 8 1/4 and width 4 inches.

View of the arch-shaped Bodem-Jensen common brick in the chimney top. Bricks are painted red.
View of standard and arch-shaped Bodem-Jensen concrete brick in the chimney top. Bricks are painted red.

View of Bodem-Jensen solid concrete brick showing stack indentations.
View of Bodem-Jensen solid concrete brick showing stack indentations.

View of the Bodem-Jensen perforated concrete brick showing curved wire-cut marks.
View of the Bodem-Jensen perforated concrete brick showing curved wire-cut marks.

References

31 Admitted To Citizenship By Superior Court, Modesto Evening News, May 21, 1926.

Divorce Sought On Charge of Cruelty, Modesto Evening News, October 8, 1926.

Federal Census Records, 1920.

Federal Census Records, 1930.

Modesto City Directory, 1920.

Modesto City Directory, 1923.

Modesto City Directory, 1924.

Modesto City Directory, 1925.

Modesto Evening News, April 4, 1922.

Modesto Evening News, July 10, 1933.

Modesto Evening News, March 22, 1922.

Pressed Cement Brick, Cement and Engineering News, v. 31, no. 3, Chicago, Illiois, 1919, p. 37.

Copyright 2016 Dan Mosier

Contact Dan Mosier at danmosier@earthlink.net.