California brick
CALIFORNIA BRICKS


Coast Brick Company

History


About 1936, Harvey T. Bernhart, Lionel P. Liston, and Lawrence I. Liston organized the Coast Brick Company in Torrance, Los Angeles County, California. The brickyard was located at 17720 Prairie Avenue, beneath the power transmission lines that run through the area. The property was leased to the firm by landowners Dorothy M. Haney and Beatries W. Vanantwerp.

View of the brickyard site
Map showing the Coast Brick Company pit in the center. From USGS Torrance, 1951.

In October 1936, the company took out a permit for the erection of an office building and equipment, amounting to $3,200. Clay was excavated from a pit, 500 feet long by 200 feet wide by 25 feet deep, on the property located 420 feet east of Prairie Avenue. The plant was equipped with a pug mill, extruding machine with wire-cutters, dryers, and field kilns. Total investment was reported at $45,000.

The Coast Brick Company produced red common wire-cut bricks with smooth and rug textures. The bricks were probably consumed locally during the six years of operation. In 1939, a wall of the kiln collapsed and the hot bricks started a grass fire.

By August 1941, the brick company had nearly exhausted the clay deposit in its pit and it was hoping to extend the digging to the east towards Crenshaw Blvd., but the Torrance City Council rejected that plan when the neighbors complained that extending the excavation would injure property values and create an "eye-sore." Even the generous offer by the brick firm of donating the land to the city for a garbage dump did not change the vote. The brickyard remained idle until 1947, when it reopened to manufacture bricks again for another year. The company was cited for digging 200 feet beyond limits specified in a permit. Without the needed clay, the Coast brickyard was forced to close. The company was dissolved in 1949. Lionel P. Liston went to Riverside County to open another brickyard under the name of the Liston Brick Company.

Notice for meeting with the City Council June 22, 1942
From Torrance Herald, June 18, 1942

Coast Brick

Common Smooth Face

Common wire-cut bricks are orange-red and uniform in color. The form is excellent with straight sharp edges and sharp corners, when not broken. The sides and ends are smooth. Ocassional round white clay are visible on the surface. Fine screen-like conveyor imprints are commonly displayed on one of the sides. Faces display strong curved wire-cut grooves and minor pits. The interior consists of 2 percent round white and red clay, 1/8 inch in diameter, and lesser subangular white quartz, round flashy mica, and round black iron oxide grains, less than 1/16 inch in diameter, in a compact quartz-rich sandy clay body. Some of the clay clots have a light green tint. This brick was made using the stiff mud process, extruded and wire-cut. Length ?, width 3 3/4, height 2 1/2 inches.

View of the smooth side of the Coast brick.
View of the smooth side of the Coast brick showing white clay clasts and faint conveyor imprints.

View of the smooth end of the Coast brick.
View of the smooth end of the Coast brick.

View of the wire-cut face of the Coast brick.
View of the wire-cut face of the Coast brick with strong curved grooves and visible white clay clasts.

View of the interior clay body of the Coast brick.
View of the interior clay body of the Coast brick showing
red clay and tiny white quartz in quartz-rich sandy clay.

Microscopic view of the interior clay body showing white quartz and black iron oxide 
in clay (50x, field of view is 1/4 inch).
Microscopic view of the interior clay body
showing white quartz and black iron oxide
in clay (50x, field of view is 1/4 inch).

Common Rug Face

Common wire-cut rug bricks are orange-red and uniform in color. The form is excellent with straight sharp edges and sharp corners, when not broken. One of the sides and ends are smooth. One of the sides and ends display a rug texture with deep transverse grooves evenly spaced between smooth margins of 3/8 inch. The grooves are 1/4 inch apart. There are 13 grooves on the end. Ocassional round white clay are visible on the surface. Fine screen-like conveyor imprints are commonly displayed on the smooth side. Faces display strong curved wire-cut grooves and minor pits. The interior consists of 2 percent round white clay, 1/8 inch in diameter, and lesser subangular white quartz, round flashy mica, and round black iron oxide grains, less than 1/16 inch in diameter, in a compact quartz-rich sandy clay body. Some of the clay clots have a light green tint. This brick was made using the stiff mud process, extruded and wire-cut. Length ?, width 3 3/4, height 2 1/2 inches.

View of the side of the Coast brick showing rug texture.
View of the side of the Coast brick showing rug texture.

View of the end of the Coast brick showing rug texture.
View of the end of the Coast brick showing rug texture.

References

Averill, C.V., and Norman, L.A., Jr., Directory of Producers of Metallic and Nonmetallic Minerals in California During 1949, California Journal of Mines and Geology, v. 47, no. 2, 1951, p. 393-451.

Brick Co. Makes New Proposal, Torrance Herald, June 11, 1942.

Brick Co. Seeks Injunction to Continue Digging, Torrance Herald, April 2, 1942.

Brick Stack Falls, Starts Grass Fire, Torrance Herald, June 15, 1939.

Brick Yard Extension Opposed, Torrance Herald, November 6, 1941.

Building Permits Exceed $20,000, Torrance Herald, October 22, 1936.

Coast Brick Co. Faces Action For Extending Digging, Torrance Herald, May 15, 1947.

Coast Brick Variance Denied, Torrance Herald, July 16, 1942.

Council to Decide Brick Expansion Here July 14, Torrance Herald, June 25, 1942.

Council to Decide Variance July 14, Torrance Herald, July 9, 1942.

Council to Reconsider Action Halting Brick Company Extension, Torrance Herald, April 16, 1942.

Council to Visit Brick Plant, Torrance Herald, May 14, 1942.

Higgins, Josh, written communications, 2014.

No. Torrance Brickyard 'Sorespot' Revived Again in Council Session, Torrance Herald, August 14, 1941.

Notice, Torrance Herald, June 18, 1942.

Symons, Henry H., California Mineral Production and Directory of Mineral Producers For 1939, California State Mining Bureau Bulletin 119, 1940.

U.S. Geological Survey, Torrance, California, 7.5 minute topographic map, 1951.

Copyright 2015 Dan Mosier

Contact Dan Mosier at danmosier@earthlink.net.