California brick

Thomas Goss

City Brick Company


Thomas Goss 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.

City Brick Co. clay bank
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.

Goss brick ad
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.

City Brick Co. drying sheds and kiln
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.

Goss Brick

Common Brick

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.

Goss brick
View of the side of Goss common brick.

Goss brick
View of the bottom face of Goss common brick.

Goss brick
View of the rough top face of Goss common brick.

Goss brick interior
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.

Goss Hotel Arcadia brick
View of the marked face of the Hotel Arcadia brick.

Goss Hotel Arcadia brick interior
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.

Hotel Arcadia
View of the the Hotel Arcadia, Santa Monica, 1887. From the Los Angeles Herald.


Clay Worker, February 1900, p. 184.

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.

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