California brick
CALIFORNIA BRICKS


Coronado Brick Company

History


Coronado Hotel The Coronado Brick Company was born out of an ambitious plan conceived by Elisha S. Babcock and Hampton L. Story to build a resort hotel on the Coronado peninsula. In 1885, Babcock and Story organized the Coronado Beach Company to subdivide and sell lots in Coronado so that they could finance the building of the Hotel Del Coronado. All of the building materials except for brick had to be shipped in. Brick for the hotel foundation, fireplaces, and chimneys were made from the clay deposit that Babcock and Story found on the Coronado peninsula, close to the hotel. Chinese workers were hired to erect a brick kiln, manufacture the bricks, and perform the brickwork for the hotel. Construction on the hotel began in January 1886 with the laying of the foundation. The Coronado brickyard produced common brick for the hotel, auxillary buildings, and a brick power plant with a 100-foot smokestack.

No description of the brick operation has been found. But from the surviving Coronado common bricks, it can be seen that the soft-mud process was used. The clay was thrown into wooden molds to form bricks, which were sand-struck. The bricks were probably dried in the sun. A description of the kiln indicates that it was fueled by oil, using a double tube steam injection system to provide an even firing temperature throughout the whole kiln. Daily capacity was over 500,000 bricks per day.

Elisha S. Babcock
Elisha S. Babcock
The great demand for brick in the San Diego area during the late 1880s justified the continuation of the Coronado brickyard after the completion of the Hotel Del Coronado in 1887. The Coronado Beach Company had built its own railroad to connect with neighboring cities. This railroad made it feasible to ship brick to construction projects throughout the county. The Coronado Brick Company was listed in the San Diego city directory as late as 1895, with Elisha S. Babcock as president and Walter Carnes as secretary and treasurer of the company. During its brief period of operation from 1886 to the late 1890s, it was said to be the largest brick producer in San Diego County.

Coronado Brick

Common brick is orange to orange-red to pale red, mostly uniform in color and sand-struck. White to yellow flash patterns arranged at angles or normal to the long edge are more common in the pale red brick. Sides are uneven with minor pits and cracks. Pits range up to 1 inch across. Prominent lip up to 1/2 inch thick, some doubled, rim the top edges on some bricks. Sides and ends have transverse grooves. Edges are irregular and dull. Corners are dull or broken. Visible clasts are subrounded to subangular red chert and cream volcanic rocks, up to 3/4 inch across. Interior clay body has about 5 percent clasts of rocks and white feldspar or clay. The faces were not visible for description. This brick was made in 1885-1886 using the soft-mud process. Length 8 1/4, width 3 3/4 - 4 1/8, height 2 1/4 inches.

Coronado brick
Coronado brick in the smokestack of the power plant.

Coronado brick
Side view of the Coronado brick.


Coronado brick interior
Interior view of the Coronado brick.


References

Atkinson, Thomas G., Civil Engineering for Buildings, The Journal of San Diego History, Winter 2002, v. 48, no. 1.

Bevil, Alexander D., The Park Brick Yard Company, The Journal of San Diego History, Winter 1996, v. 42, no. 1.

Chauncey, Adams, History of Coronado, University of San Diego American Civilization 18, May 8, 1998, http://history. sandiego.edu/gen/local/coronado/adams.html (accessed 2007).

San Diego City Directories 1886-1910.

Smythe, William E., History of San Diego, 1542-1908: An account of the rise and progress of the pioneer settlement on the Pacific coast of the United States, History Co., San Diego, 1908.

Copyright 2007 Dan Mosier

Contact Dan Mosier at danmosier@earthlink.net.