California brick
CALIFORNIA BRICKS


Dreischmyer Brick Company

History


In 1889, Henry Dreischmyer, Jr., started the Dreischmyer Brick Company, located on the bank of Coyote Creek at Margaret and 16th streets, San Jose. Dreischmyer was born at the New Almaden mercury mines near San Jose in 1866, when his father Henry, Sr., was employed as a brickmaker at the mines. Henry, Sr., was one of the first brickmakers in San Jose when he arrived there in 1859 from Chicago, Illinois. Henry, Jr., no doubt learned the trade from his father. When at age 16, Henry, Jr., went to work for the Petersen Brick Company. Two years later, he worked for his father at the San Jose Brick Company yard. Four years later, in 1889, Henry, Jr., started his own brick business when he purchased two acres of land for the Dreischmyer Brick Company.

Clay was mined from the banks of Coyote Creek and the deposit was said to be 20 feet of good brick-making sandy clay. Evidence of the clay bank can still be seen today, although the brick plant site has been built over by residential homes. Dreischmyer built a Hoffman continuous down-draft kiln, fueled by coal screenings. This kiln had a capacity of 5 million brick. The plant process was soft-mud. Hand-molded common, stock, pressed, and ornamental bricks were manufactured by a force of 25 men. Average daily production was about 16,000 brick.

Dreischmyer bricks were shipped through out Santa Clara County. By 1904, over 35 million brick had been shipped to San Francisco. Fine examples of Dreischmyer bricks can be seen in a few buildings still standing in San Jose, such as Henry Dreischmyer, Jr., house at 695 South 8th St., the Alcantara Building at 35 South Market St., and the three-story red brick building on the northwest corner of San Fernando and First streets.

The Dreischmyer Brick Company closed in 1909. The brick plant buildings stood as late as 1915, and these were razed sometime after that when the area became a residential community.

Dreischmyer brickyard
View of the Dreischmyer Brick Company plant and yard,
foot of 16th St., San Jose, 1896. From San Jose Mercury
"A Souvenir of Santa Clara County and It's Resources," 1896.


Dreischmyer Brick

Common Brick

Common brick is orange to orange red. Pits are common up to one-half inch across. Wide grooves are present on some faces. Minor yellow flashing may be present. Some display black overburns. Thin lip may be present around the top edges. Fine longitudinal striations are present on some sides. Faces typically are rough and uneven. Interior contains 3 to 5 percent pebbles of red siltstone and white quartz, and round yellow clay clots, all less than 1/4 inch in diameter, in a porous fine orange clay body. This brick was made using the sand-struck, soft mud process. Length 8 1/8, width 3 3/7 - 4, height 2 1/2 inches.

Alcantara Building in San Jose
Alcantara Building, 35 South Market St., San Jose, is built of
Dreischmyer brick.

Alcantara Building in San Jose
Dreischmyer stock and ornamental bricks can be seen on the front
of the Alcantara Building in San Jose.


Dreischmyer brick
Dreischmyer common brick from the rear wall of the Alcantara Building.
Displaying the variety of color and quality of common brick.

Dreischmyer brick
Dreischmyer common brick from the rear wall of the Alcantara Building.
Note the highly pitted and grooved nature typical of this common brick.


Stock Brick

Stock brick is orange red to pale red to red. Most bricks have a pinkish hue. Finer quality than the common brick with uniform color, less pitting, and straight edges. Small pits may be seen in some faces. Thin lip may be present around the top edge. Fine longitudinal striations appear on some sides. Interior contains 3 to 5 percent pebbles of red siltstone and white quartz, and round yellow clay clots, all less than 1/4 inch in diameter, in a fine orange clay body. This brick was made using the sand-struck, soft mud process. Length 8 1/8, width 3 3/4 - 4, height 2 1/2 inches.

Dreischmyer brick
Dreischmyer stock brick from the front of the Alcantara Building.
Note the finer quality of the stock brick and uniform pale red color.


Dreischmyer brick
Dreischmyer stock brick from the home of Henry Dreischmyer, San Jose.
Note the fine quality of the stock brick and uniform pale red color.


Dreischmyer brick
Dreischmyer stock brick was used in the Security Building-Ryland Block, on the northwest
corner of First and San Fernando streets, San Jose.


References

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

Guinn, J.M., History of the State of California and Biographical Record of Coast Counties, California, The Chapman Publishing Co., Chicago, IL, 1904, p. 1252-1253.

San Jose City Directories, 1892-1909.

San Jose Mercury, A Souvenir of Santa Clara County and It's Resources, 1896, p. 158-159.

Copyright 2005 Dan Mosier

Contact Dan Mosier at danmosier@earthlink.net.