California brick
CALIFORNIA BRICKS


Central Brick Company

History


The Central Brick Company was incorporated in San Francisco on October 19, 1905, with a capital stock of $300,000. The directors were H. L. Miller of Alameda, W. F. Perkins of San Francisco, J. M. Masten of San Francisco, E. P. Vandercook of Oakland, and Louis Titus of Berkeley. Their first office was located at 340 Steuart Street in San Francisco, and after the 1906 Earthquake, the office was moved to 430 California Street in San Francisco. The Central brick plant was located on the east side of San Pablo Point, Richmond, Contra Costa County. Here they mined the shale on the property in a quarry behind the plant. The plant stood on the shore of San Pablo Bay.

Central Brick Co. brickyard
View of the Central Brick Company's plant at San Pablo Point,
Richmond. Courtesy of the Richmond Historical Society.

The plant used the stiff-mud process manufacturing an average of 90,000 brick per 9 hours in 1909. The equipment included two 9-foot dry pans, one No. 29 pug mill, a Giant press, one No. 83 automatic cutter, all of the American Clay Manufacturing Company. The plant was powered by three 100 h.p. motors. The plant was converted from steam to electric in the summer of 1909. From the photograph of the plant, there was a large drying shed and four round downdraft kilns. The finished brick were stacked in the yard, loaded into cars, and shipped out by rail, which passed through the property.

The Central company made red common brick, which looks very similar to McNear common brick. The examples of Central brick shown below are from the brickyard site and from the Cyrus Wright warehouse, built in 1908, at 645 Third Street in San Francisco, where a good range of colors and shapes can be seen. Central bricks were also shipped in 1909 to the Holbrook, Merrill and Stetson warehouse at Sixth and Bluxome in San Francisco. The brick plant closed in 1914, and it was later dismantled. The site today is part of the private yacht harbor of Chevron Oil.

Cyrus Wright warehouse, San Francisco
Cyrus Wright warehouse, San Francisco, made of Central bricks.

Central Brick

Common brick ranges from orange-red to red to dark red, mostly uniform in color. Yellow or a lighter shade of red flash appears on some. Faces display diagonal wire-cut grooves, showing typical strong velour pattern. The sides and ends are smooth, with faint transverse grooves made by the extruder, and the sides may show crackling and stack indentations. The face and sides may have a slight undulation and the edges are irregular and often broken or chipped. The edges may have been sharp when new. Arch and wedge shapes apparently were also made. Red and black, round to subround, flatten pebbles of shale and chert, up to 1/4 inch in diameter, are abundantly seen on the wirecut faces and less so on the sides. Lesser amounts of subangular white quartz may be visible. These clasts constitute about 15 percent of the porous sandy clay body. Some lamination is present in the clay body which forms curved longitudinal cracks. This brick was made using the stiff-mud extruding and wire-cut process. Length 8, width 3 3/4, height 2 1/2 inches.

Central brick sides
View of the sides of the Central common brick.

Central brick sides
View of the sides of the Central common brick showing shades colors.

Central brick face
View of the face of the Central common brick showing a strong velour pattern from the wire-cutter.

Central brick side
View of the smooth side of the Central brick.

Central brick flashed side
View of the side of the Central common brick showing yellow flash pattern.


Central brick end
View of the end of the Central brick.


Central brick end lamination
View of the end of the Central common brick showing lamination cracks.

Central brick interior
View of the interior of the Central common brick showing clasts.

Cyrus Wright warehouse brickwork
View of the different shapes of Central brick used in the Cyrus Wright warehouse, San Francisco.

Cyrus Wright warehouse brickwork
View of a window header brickwork of Central brick used in the Cyrus Wright warehouse, San Francisco.

References

Another Record Run, Brick, v. 31, no. 3, September 1909, p. 111.

Articles of Incorporation of the Central Brick Company, October 19, 1905.

Brick, Nov. 29, 1905, p. 38.

Brick, v. 30, no. 1, 1909, p. 79.

San Francisco City Directories, 1906-1914.

Copyright 2006 Dan Mosier

Contact Dan Mosier at danmosier@earthlink.net.