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A. Bowman and Company


On the banks of Stevens Creek south of Louise Avenue (now Evelyn Avenue), Mountain View, was discovered a clay deposit by Albert Bowman and Company, of San Francisco, during the spring of 1875. Chinese laborers were hired to dig the clay and build the first field kiln, which burned wood for fuel. By November 1875, Bowman had 800,000 bricks of "superior" quality on hand. A railroad was laid to the yard to ship the bricks to San Francisco. This first operation closed about 1883. It reopened three years later as the Mountain View Brick Yard (see Mountain View Brick Yard).

The Frenchman's Tower in Palo Alto
The Frenchman's Tower, 1875-1876, on Old Page Mill Road, Palo Alto,
is believed to be made of bricks from Bowman's brick yard.

Bowman Brick

Common brick is orange brown to orange red to red to pale red, mostly uniform in color with occasional yellow flashing displayed on sides in different orientations. Some are fired to yellowish brown. A fine sand coats the surface and contains subrounded white quartz, yellow chert, black iron oxide (magnetite), tan sandstone, and black, red, and brown unidentified grains of rocks. Small white specks of clay are visible on the surface. Weathered surfaces often display pits up to an inch across and expose internal clasts. The sides are even and display faint transverse striations and minor transverse cracks. Some have an irregular, uneven lip around the top face. Edges are dull and undulates. Corners are dull. The top and bottom faces were not exposed for description. The interior contains about 3 to 5 percent rounded white, gray, and yellow clay and red pebbles of chert and sandstone, ranging from 1/8 to 1 inch in diameter, in a highly porous, sandy clay body. Some lamination was seen in the internal clay body. This brick was made using the hand-molded, sand struck, soft mud process. Length 8 1/4 - 8 1/2, width 3 7/8 - 4, height 2 1/4 - 2 1/2 inches.

Bowman brick in the Frenchman's Tower
Bowman brick in the Frenchman Tower displaying the range of colors
of kiln-fired bricks. The window is filled by more recent Port Costa brick.

Bowman brick
Bowman brick in the Frenchman Tower were hand-molded bricks.
Visitors have engraved their names into the face of the bricks.

Bowman brick
View of the side of the Bowman brick in the Frenchman Tower.

Bowman brick
Bowman brick in the Frenchman Tower displaying typical
clast-filled interior clay body on the broken surface.

Bowman brick
View of the interior clay body of the Bowman brick showing large
rounded white clay in a highly porous, orange-red, sandy clay body.


Gullard, Pamela, and Nancy Lund, History of Palo Alto: The Early Years, Scottwall Associates, San Francisco, CA, 1989.

Kinchen, Barbara, Index card file, Mountain View Library.

Mountain View City Directory 1880-81.

San Jose Mercury News, 1875, 1886.

Santa Clara County Map Book G, Miramonte Subdivision, 1893, p. 14.

Copyright 2005 Dan Mosier

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