City Brick Company
Thomas Goss (1836-1901) came to the United States at age 12 with his parents
from England. The family settled in Iowa. An early marriage with two children
ended in divorce. He went to California in the early 1850s
to seek gold and had some success in making money. By 1860, he was working as a brick
molder at the Harnett brickyard in Sacramento. By 1870, Goss was making
bricks in Santa Barbara and two years later, he was making bricks in San
Diego. In 1873, while in San Diego, he met and married his second wife Sarah A. Butler,
and they did not have children.
He moved to Los Angeles in 1876 and first worked at various brickyards. In
1881, he purchased the brickyard property of Joseph Mullally on Eternity
Street and opened his own brickyard. A year later, he built his brick house
on Buena Vista Street, now called Broadway.
In 1883, Goss purchased several lots of former brickyards from Bernard and Tice on
Buena Vista Street to expand his brickyard properties. He also purchased
15 acres of land at Magnolia Avenue and Mission Road in East Los Angeles for a
second brickyard. At that time, there were only five brickmakers in Los Angeles,
Goss, Mullally, Bowman, Ilner, and Rankin, and the local newspaper reported that
"all are short of bricks." Goss' bricks were popular and he became a major brick
supplier in Los Angeles.
In 1886, Goss partnered with Edward Simons, Albert A. Hubbard, Samuel P. Rhodes, and
Edward Oxby to form the City Brick Company, with a capital stock of $1,000,000, and
their main office was located at 19 North Spring Street in Los Angeles. Goss' brickyard
on Buena Vista Street, near Bernard Street, became the company's West yard and
the Magnolia Street brickyard became the East yard.
View of the clay bank and mine carts of the City
Brick Company. From The Clay Worker, 1900.
At the West yard, the clay bank was in sandy shale 100 feet thick. The shale was
mined by pick and shovel and hauled in dump carts to an Eagle dry pan, 150 feet from
the clay bank. A wooden Quaker brick machine was powered by an electric motor. The
machinery was run five days a week, and produced in an eight-hour day 36,500 molded
brick. They fired the brick in an open kiln, using
wood as fuel. This kiln had a capacity of 38,000 bricks per day. The Los Angeles City Directory
for 1886-87 said, "Thomas Goss. Brick manufacturer, supplies a
first-class article of well-burned brick at the lowest market rates; yard at 587 Buena
Vista street, corner Bernard street." By 1887, they had increased production to 50,000,
with G. E. Tice as the yard foreman.
Advertisement for wood. From the Los Angeles Herald, February 4, 1881.
About 1895, the City Brick Company apparently moved its West yard into Chavez Ravine immediately
east of the yard of the Capitol Steam Brick Works, owned by Edward Simons. Soft shales were mined
from a bank 100 feet high. The shales were crushed in an Eagle dry pan. Bricks were made using a
Quaker machine and fired in open kilns. An 1896 state report mentioned that the City brickyard
was making 38,000 brick a day with 35 workers and Albert A. Hubbard was manager.
In 1896, the company constructed a new Hoffman continuous kiln, in which the five-day product was
burned every seven days. The capacity of this kiln was 75,000 bricks per day. Brownish red brick
was uniform in color. Less than 5 percent were lighter shades and these were carefully sorted out.
In 1898, they were using a Potts brick machine. By 1900, Chamberlain was superintendent
of this yard.
View of the drying sheds and Hoffman continuous kiln
of the City Brick Company. From The Clay Worker, 1900.
At the East side yard, the clay bank was a reddish adobe about 20 feet thick, and a
bed of sand about 2 feet thick, which was desirable for mixing with the clay. Coal
slack was also mixed into the clay. The plant consisted of a hopper, an Eagle dry pan,
a Hoffman continuous kiln, a machine house, powered by an electric motor, and
substantial drying sheds to store the surplus of brick. The machinery was a wooden
Quaker brick machine, with a capacity of 36,500 brick per day. Drying was done on
pallets under light sheds. Oxby was the superintendent of this yard.
City bricks were used in the Nadeau Block at 118 West First
Street in Los Angeles (1882), San Gabriel Winery in Alhambra (1882),
Valla Building at Los Angeles and First streets in Los Angeles (1883),
Hotel Arcadia in Santa Monica (1886), and a three-story brick block at
Main and Second in Los Angeles (1889). All of these buildings have long since
been razed. There may still be Goss brick residing in pre-1900 built
structures, such as in walls, foundations, or chimneys. So few of his bricks
have been examined that I am not sure if he had marked any of them with his name
or with the City Brick Company name. To date, no bricks have been found with
their names on them. It is important to note that another
later City Brick Company at another location during the 1920s did mark their
brick with "CITY B. Co." but this was not the same company. One brick believed to
be made by Goss, shown below, was specially marked for the Hotel Arcadia.
This brick was found by Artist Steve Mount, a found object art sculptor, in
Santa Monica and it now resides at the Santa Monica History Museum.
Goss retired from the brick business in January 1900, when he sold his brickyards
to the Los Angeles Brick Company. Aside from brickmaking, Thomas Goss served as a
director in other businesses, such as banking and mining. He and his wife were also
members of many social clubs and organizations in Los Angeles. In 1885, Goss was
elected City Councilman representing the First Ward and served for two years.
During that time he was also a chairman of the Board of Public Works and a member of
the Park Commission. In 1899, he was appointed a Police Commissioner, which he
served for one year.
While visiting friends in Orange, Goss passed away on February 20, 1901,
at the age of 65. The funeral was held at the Elks Lodge.
"A large number of the members of the Order [of the Elks] and many old
pioneers were present to do honor to a man they had all loved and admired,"
wrote the Los Angeles Herald. He was interred in the Odd Fellows'
Cemetery. These brickyard properties were sold to the Los Angeles Brick
Company and have since been developed for business and residential units.
Common brick from the Buena Vista yard is orange-red to red and mostly uniform in color.
The surface is coated
with fine sand composed of subangular white quartz, black iron, dark unidentified rocks,
and brassy mica. The form is good and straight with dull edges and corners. Form is good
with slightly undulating dull edges and dull corners. The bottom
face is unmarked and flat and even. The top face is rough with pits and longitudinal
strike marks. Clasts of mostly white quartz are visible on the surface. The interior is
composed of 3 to 10 percent subangular white quartz and granite, subrounded
orange-stained quartz, round grains of black iron oxide, all mostly less than 1/8 inch
across, with rare occurrence of quartz or granite 1/4 inch across. These clasts are in
a well-indurated porous sandy clay body. This brick was made from 1883 to 1896 using
the soft-mud process.
Sizes vary with length 7 1/2, widths 3 1/2 to 3 3/4, and heights 2 1/4 to 2 3/8 inches.
View of the side of Goss common brick.
View of the bottom face of Goss common brick.
View of the rough top face of Goss common brick.
View of the interior of Goss common brick showing the ubiquitous tiny white quartz around a large granite rock.
Hotel Arcadia Common Brick
The Hotel Arcadia common brick was found on the beach by Steve Mount in Santa Monica.
This brick matches the description of the Goss common brick above and so, on that
basis, Thomas Goss is believed to be the manufacturer of this brick. However, unlike
other bricks made by Goss, the bottom face is impressed with the markings for the
hotel inside a shallow rectangular frog. As far as we know, Goss did not normally
mark his bricks, so this was done for a special project. Over 200,000 of these bricks
were made for the 5-story beachfront resort hotel built in Santa Monica in 1886. The
frog is 7 inches in length and 2 5/8 inches in height. Inside the frog are the words
"HOTEL" on the first line, "ARCADIA" in arched lettering on the second line, and the
year "1886" on the third line. The letters are recessed at the bottom of the frog and
are in serif style. "Hotel" spans 4 1/2 inches and "Arcadia" spans 5 1/2 inches, and
both stand 5/8 inch tall. "1886" is 3 inches in length and 5/8 inch tall. This brick
was made in 1886 using the soft-mud process. The length is 7 3/4, width 3 5/8, and height
2 inches. I am grateful to Mary Pat Cooney of the Santa Monica History Museum for
permission to study and photograph the brick.
View of the marked face of the Hotel Arcadia brick.
View of the interior of the Hotel Arcadia brick. The interior matches well
with that in the Goss brick shown above with its ubiquitous tiny white quartz.
View of the the Hotel Arcadia, Santa Monica, 1887. From the Los Angeles Herald.
Clay Worker, February 1900, p. 184.
Copyright © 2013 Dan Mosier
Clay Worker, November 1900, p. 362.
Clay Worker, October 1900, p. 273-274.
Cooney, Mary Pat, Operations Manager, Santa Monica History Museum, personal communications, 2012.
Crawford, J.J., Structural Materials, California State Mining Bureau 13th Report of the
State Mineralogist, 1896, p. 612-641.
Daily Alta California, Passengers From San Diego, October 18, 1872.
Federal Census Records, 1860.
Federal Census Records, 1870.
Federal Census Records, 1900.
Los Angeles City Directory 1884-85.
Los Angeles City Directory 1893.
Los Angeles City Directory 1896.
Los Angeles City Directory 1897.
Los Angeles County Deed Book 80, July 6, 1881, p. 295.
Los Angeles County Deed Book 96, January 8, 1883, p. 493.
Los Angeles County Deed Book 102, February 26, 1883, p. 27.
Los Angeles County Deed Book 117, March 4, 1884, p. 419.
Los Angeles Herald, A Superb Hotel, January 1, 1887.
Los Angeles Herald, August 1, 1883.
Los Angeles Herald, August 31, 1882.
Los Angeles Herald, February 28, 1889.
Los Angeles Herald, Funeral of Thomas Goss, February 23, 1901.
Los Angeles Herald, March 9, 1882.
Los Angeles Herald, Three New Incorporations, January 10, 1900.
Los Angeles Times, Among the Architects, August 19, 1882.
Los Angeles Times, Scarcity of Bricks, June 16, 1883.
Los Angeles Times, Sore Shoulders, February 8, 1887.
Los Angeles Times, The Brick Supply, February 27, 1887.
Los Angeles Times, Sudden Demise of Thomas Goss, February 21, 1901.
Mount, Steve J., personal communications, 2012. See Steve's Found Object Art Sculptures website.
Paulson, L.L., Handbook and Directory of San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, Ventura, San Bernardino,
Los Angeles, and San Diego Counties, San Francisco, 1875.
Sacramento Daily Union, New Companies Incorporated, May 2, 1889.