Coronado Brick Company
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
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.
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
Length 8 1/4, width 3 3/4 - 4 1/8, height 2 1/4 inches.
Coronado brick in the smokestack of the power plant.
Side view of the Coronado brick.
Interior view of the Coronado brick.
Atkinson, Thomas G., Civil Engineering for Buildings, The
Journal of San Diego History, Winter 2002, v. 48, no. 1.
Copyright © 2007 Dan Mosier
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.