California brick
CALIFORNIA BRICKS


N. Clark & Sons

N. Clark and Sons ad
Advertisement of N. Clark & Sons. From Architect and Engineer, 1912.

History


Nehemiah Clark, a native of Dover, Delaware, came to California in 1850. He first established a pottery plant in 1863 known as the Pacific Pottery, on the east side of Sacramento. There he made a variety of clay products, including vitrified sewer pipe, chimney pipe, and the popular "Pacific" firebrick. In 1880, an office and depot was opened at 1047 Market Street, San Francisco, where he sold firebrick and other clay products. In 1883, the San Francisco office was moved to 22 California Street.


In 1884, Clark decided to move his pottery plant closer to the bustling San Francisco market. After spending a year visiting eastern brick plants and sewer pipe plants, he returned and selected a site at Alameda Point in Alameda for his new works. This site of eight acres was ideal for both rail and water transportation. The new plant was built at 401 Pacific Avenue, near 4th Street in Alameda. In March 1886, an enormous four-story brick building, 260 feet long by 110 feet wide, was erected on the site. This required over 600,000 bricks. Spur rail lines from the Southern Pacific main line were extended to the plant to unload coal and clay and ship out finished clay products. N. Clark managed the Alameda operations while his son, Albert V. Clark, managed the Sacramento plant until it closed in 1887. Another son George D. Clark tended to the business operation in San Francisco, which by 1892 the company had opened a new office and show room at 17-19 Spear Street. In 1910, the office was moved once more to 112-116 Natoma Street. The firm's name became known as N. Clark & Sons, incorporated on January 11, 1889. Nehemiah Clark died in Sacramento, where he resided, in 1897 at the age of 68.

N. Clark and Sons brickyard
Plant of N. Clark & Sons Pottery, Alameda, CA. From Turner, 1906.


Initially, power at the Alameda plant was supplied by a 100-horse power Atlas engine. The boiler rooms contained two 60-inch steel boilers, and the entire building was heated by steam. They used exhaust steam at day and live steam at night, drying the goods evenly and thoroughly before firing. Dry and wet pans were used for grinding the clay. The machinery was set up to manufacture all products automatically, which included the "Pacific" firebrick, sewer pipe, and drain tiles. The workmen did not handle the products until they were ready to be put on the drying floors. The clay was shipped from the company's clay pit at Carbondale, Amador County, where 5 to 10 workers were employed. Additional clays were obtained from deposits in Walnut Creek, Contra Costa County, Valley Springs, Calaveras County, and the Livermore Valley, Alameda County.

By 1896, the plant had 11 kilns, two of which were 25 feet in diameter and eight 20 feet in diameter, and one 14-foot kiln. A Whiteacre machine was used for manufacturing pressed brick. Fire and face bricks were made by the stiff-mud process without repressing. Ironstone vitrified sewer and water pipes, chimney pipe and tops, Spanish roof tile, and fire-proofing were also produced. In 1896, the company added Roman brick and architectural terra cotta. The terra cotta was made in a separate two-story brick building, built in July 1896, covering 100 square feet. Architectural terra cotta of wonderful designs for building ornamentation and trimmings was glazed in a wide range of colors, the most popular being the cream polychrome finish. N. Clark and Sons terra cotta

By 1920, the plant had expanded to 17 down-draft and muffle kilns, two steam driers, a 500-horsepower Corliss steam engine, and oil was used for fuel. The plant employed from 25 to 150 workers, depending on the work orders, which came from throughout the Pacific Coast. A major set back occurred in July 1917, when part of the plant was destroyed by fire and the company was not allowed to rebuild until 1919 because of World War I, when such operations were classed as nonessential by the government. They suffered yet another fire in September 1927, which required shutdown during reconstruction.

N. Clark & Sons products were shipped throughout the Pacific states and as far east as Utah. This company was a major competitor for sewer and water pipes in nearly every city and town in northern California. N. Clark & Sons architectural terra cotta and face brick adorn many significant buildings in major western cities. Some fine examples of their architectural terra cotta and brick can be seen in San Francisco at the First Presbyterian Church, First Church of Christ, Scientist, St. Ignatius Church, and Foxcroft Building; in Oakland at the Federal Realty Building, H. C. Capwell, and Realty Syndicate Building; and in Sacramento at the County Courthouse. Pressed face brick impressed with "N. C. & S." were produced between 1896 and 1937. These were made in all shades of earthly colors and textures. Firebrick from the Alameda plant were impressed with "PACIFIC" or "N. C. & S." The PACIFIC firebrick was produced from 1887 to 1937, but further research is needed to determine exactly when the "N. C. & S." brand was first used at this plant. The company ceased all advertisements for bricks after 1937, indicating about when brick production at the Alameda plant probably ended.

N. Clark and Sons brickyard
New plant of N. Clark & Sons rebuilt after the fire. From the Alameda-Times Star.


On July 1, 1945, the Clark firm became a division of the Pacific Clay Products, Inc., based at 306 West Avenue 26, Los Angeles. The Alameda plant since 1945 was primarily manufacturing sewer pipes and architectural terra cotta. It operated 13 down-draft kilns and 6 muffle kilns. The kilns were 26 feet in diameter and 15 feet high, and served by two cylindrical stacks 125 feet and 150 feet in height. Plant capacity was 750 tons of fired products per month and employed 125 workers. The Alameda plant operated until 1949, when it was permanently closed. The plant was demolished in 1963. Two years later, Chipman School was built over the former pottery site.

N. Clark & Sons Brick

Firebrick

The PACIFIC firebrick shown is an arch-shaped brick, light buff with a mottled orange-brown finish on the sides. A few black spots of iron oxide can be seen on the faces. The brand name is impressed into one of the faces in block letters 7/8 inch high and spans 5 1/2 inches in length. The rectangular outline of the name plate, 6 inches long by 1 inch high, can be seen around the lettering. There is also a 1/2 inch wide border slightly raised around the edge of the stamped face. Length 9, width 4, height 2 3/8 to 2 inches.

N. Clark and Sons Pacific brick marked face
N. Clark & Sons "PACIFIC" brand firebrick. Donated by Stuart Guedon.

N. Clark and Sons Pacific brick side
View of the side of the PACIFIC firebrick. Donated by Stuart Guedon.

The N. C. & S. firebrick shown below is light buff with an orange-brown finish on the faces and sides. A few black spots of iron oxide can be seen on the faces. The brand name is impressed into one of the faces in block letters 3/4 inch high and spans 3 1/2 inches in length. The stiff mud process was used to manufacture these bricks and as a result, transverse grooves can be seen on the sides and ends and curved wire cut grooves on the faces. Length 9 1/4, width 4 1/4, height 2 1/2 inches.

N. Clark and Sons brick marked face
View of the face of the N. Clark & Sons firebrick. Donated by Stuart Guedon.

N. Clark and Sons brick side
View of the side of the N. Clark & Sons firebrick. Donated by Stuart Guedon.

Face Brick

The N. C. & S. pressed face brick were made in a number of shades of color, including white, gray, buff, gold, copper, red, brown, and others. Textures included smooth face to rough face and mat-glazed. These bricks contain brown to black iron oxide spots as tiny freckles evenly distributed, which is a distinguishing feature. The architectural terra cotta made by this company also displays these fine freckles in the terra cotta clay body. These iron oxide freckles can be seen in the light gray face brick shown below, which gives the brick a light greenish brown hue. These bricks were extruded in the stiff-mud process, which left fine transverse grooves on the sides and ends of the brick. Wire cut faces may show curved grooves, even in the pressed faces. Velour texture was seen in some bricks. The corners and edges of the pressed brick are sharp and straight. The brand name is often impressed into the face within a frog 1/4 inch deep. The frog is usually 6 inches long by 2 inches wide, with beveled sides. The block lettering is 3/4 inch high and spans 5 1/2 inches in length. Some pressed bricks contain double frogs with the "N. C" impressed in the left frog and the "& S." impressed in the right frog. Impressions of the screws from the name plate may be present. The pressed brick has a range of sizes. Length 7 7/8 - 8 1/4, width 3 5/8 - 4, height 1 7/8 - 2 1/4 inches.

N. Clark and Sons light gray pressed face brick
N. Clark & Sons light gray pressed face brick.


N. Clark and Sons light gray pressed brick
N. Clark & Sons light gray pressed face bricks in the wall
of St. Ignatius Church, Fulton St., San Francisco.

N. Clark and Sons double-square frog brick
N. Clark & Sons brick displaying the face with double-square frogs and marks. Courtesy of Steve Curtiss.


N. Clark and Sons brick side
Side view of the N. Clark & Sons gray double-square frog brick.


N. Clark and Sons brick close-up view
Close-up view of the N. Clark & Sons gray double-square frog brick showing the brown iron oxide spotted surface.


N. Clark and Sons rustic pressed brick
N. Clark & Sons rustic pressed face brick in the wall of
the First Church of Christ, Scientist, California St., San Francisco.

N. Clark and Sons rustic gray face brick
N. Clark & Sons rustic gray face brick.

N. Clark and Sons rustic buff face brick
N. Clark & Sons rustic buff face brick.

N. Clark and Sons rustic cream face brick
N. Clark & Sons rustic cream face brick.

N. Clark and Sons rustic gold face brick
N. Clark & Sons rustic gold face brick.

N. Clark and Sons rustic copper face brick
N. Clark & Sons rustic copper face brick.

N. Clark and Sons rustic red face brick
N. Clark & Sons rustic red face brick.

N. Clark and Sons rustic brown face brick
N. Clark & Sons rustic brown face brick.

N. Clark and Sons pressed face brick
N. Clark & Sons pressed face brick tapestry in the wall of the
First Presbyterian Church, Van Ness Ave., San Francisco.

N. Clark and Sons tapestry gray face brick
N. Clark & Sons tapestry gray face brick.

N. Clark and Sons tapestry buff face brick
N. Clark & Sons tapestry buff face brick.

N. Clark and Sons tapestry cream face brick
N. Clark & Sons tapestry cream face brick.

N. Clark and Sons tapestry gold face brick
N. Clark & Sons tapestry gold face brick.

N. Clark and Sons tapestry copper face brick
N. Clark & Sons tapestry copper face brick.

N. Clark and Sons tapestry red face brick
N. Clark & Sons tapestry red face brick.

N. Clark and Sons tapestry rose face brick
N. Clark & Sons tapestry rose face brick.

N. Clark and Sons tapestry burgundy face brick
N. Clark & Sons tapestry burgundy face brick.

N. Clark and Sons tapestry clinker face brick
N. Clark & Sons tapestry clinker face brick.

Pressed Paver

The N. C. & S. pressed paver is salmon color and has dark and light flashing shades on some sides. The surface is smooth with straight and sharp edges and sharp corners if not broken. Like the pressed face brick, these pavers contain brown to black iron oxide spots as tiny freckles evenly distributed, which is a distinguishing feature. The iron oxides may be blistered with holes. Two variations of branding have been found, one on the bottom face of the paver and another on the side of the paver. The branding is individually stamped on each paver, probably after it was removed from the press as indicated by the off-centered or angled position of the branding. The border of the branding is 2 1/2 inches long and 1 1/4 inches wide. The name is centered on four lines, all in block lettering. The first line is "FROM," which is 3/4 inch long and 1/8 inch high. The second line is "N. CLARK & SONS," which is 2 1/4 inches long and 1/4 inch high. The third line is "SAN FRANCISCO," which is 1 1/2 inches long and 1/8 inch high. The fourth line is "WORKS AT ALAMEDA, CALIF.," which is 2 1/4 inches long and 1/8 inch high. The interior consists of 15 percent clear quartz, white granite, and black blistered iron oxide, all less than 1/16 inch across, in a yellow sandy clay body. Length 6, width 6, height 1 3/4 inches.

N. Clark and Sons pressed paver brick marked face
View of the N. Clark & Sons pressed paver with the branding on the bottom face.


N. Clark and Sons pressed paver brick marked side
View of the N. Clark & Sons pressed paver with the branding on the side. Photo courtesy of Alan Miller.


N. Clark and Sons pressed paver brick side
View of the side of the N. Clark & Sons pressed paver displaying flashing.


References

Alameda-Times Star, Anniversary and Progress Edition, no date.

Architect and Engineer, v. 28, no. 2, March 1912, p. 17.

Architect and Engineer, v. 30, no. 2, Sept. 1912, p. 93.

Aubury, Lewis E., The Structural and Industrial Materials of California, California State Mining Bureau Bulletin 38, 1906, p. 202.

Boalich, E.S., Castello, W.O., Huguenin, Emile, Logan, C.A., and Tucker, W.B., The Clay Industry In California, California State Mining Bureau Preliminary Report 7, 1920, p. 36-37.

Brick and Clay Record, July 14, 1896, p. 26.

Crawford, J.J., Structural Materials, California State Mining Bureau 12th Annual Report of the State Mineralogist, 1894, p. 379-405.

Crawford, J.J., Structural Materials, California State Mining Bureau 13th Report of the State Mineralogist, 1896, p. 612-641.

Davis, F.F., Mines and Mineral Resources of Alameda County, California, California State Mining Bureau, California Journal of Mines and Geology, v. 46, no. 2, 1950, p. 279-346.

Dietrich, Waldemar F., The Clay Resources and the Ceramic Industry of California, California State Mining Bureau Bulletin 99, 1928, p. 40.

Doty, Riley, written communications 2009.

Hanks, Henry G., California Minerals, California State Mining Bureau 4th Annual Report of the State Mineralogist, 1883, p. 142.

Huguenin, E., and Castello, W.O., Alameda County, California State Mining Bureau 17th Report of the State Mineralogist, 1920, p. 17-42.

Merlin Imelda, Alameda A Geographical History, 1977, p. 81.

Oakland Tribune, Illustrated Special Edition, January 1888, p. 68.

Oakland Tribune, January 20, 1887, p. 41.

Sacramento City Cemetery 1849-2000 Index.

San Francisco City Directories, 1907-1962.

Turner, Mort D., Clay and the Ceramic Industry of the San Francisco Bay Counties, California Division of Mines Bulletin 154, 1951, p. 252.

Wright, George F., History of Sacramento County, California, Thompson and West, 1880.

Copyright 2005 Dan Mosier

Contact Dan Mosier at danmosier@earthlink.net.