The brickyard at Chino Hills is the subject of this page because of the availability of Higgins bricks from this plant shown below.
Most of the information about the Chino Hills plant was provided by Josh Higgins. Josh has uploaded several fascinating films
on YouTube.com showing the various operations at the brickyards owned by the Higgins Brick Company.
The following plant description is drawn from a tour guide of the plant written in 1988 and is published here by permission.
Raw materials are shipped in 5 pup and truck and load dumps with 1 bottom dump truck from the mines of Corona, California.
These 6 sets of truck and trailers haul approximately 25 tons on each round trip of about 20 miles and average 6 round trips
daily (900 tons).
Materials are dumped in separate piles and then blended by a 4-ton bucket Michigan loader. The loader
operator blends 4 materials alternating each material using a 10-part batch system laying each part on a batching pad,
then blending back and over to a pile of 40 tons. The four materials used are essentially 3 waste clays, 1 from a former
sand glass plant, 1 rock quarry fine dusts from a roofing granular plant, and 1 rock company fill type; the fourth material
is a low refractory clay. The batch is then hauled by loader to four Meco feed hoppers using an alternating method, one
bucket in each hopper for a consistant blend throughout the batch.
Clay batch is then conveyed by belt to a Steele disintegrator and proceeds by belt conveyor to a Symons shaker-type screen fitted with 1/8-inch slotted screen cloth. Tailings are returned by the belt conveyor to a Miller Hammermill and fed back through the system to the screen. All of these operations are connected to a Norblo dust collector which does an efficient job of keeping the preparation room clean. It should be remembered that clay preparation in Southern California where there are long dry sessions (sometimes 7 or 8 months without rain) dry out surface clay completely.
Screen clay is taken by the bucket elevator to a conveyor and discharged into storage bins then metered onto a Merrick
computerized belt which weighs additives and clay mix accurately to the belt and into the pug mill when producing
color brick. Bins are equipped with a vibrator which is manually actuated as needed by the pug operator.
After the screened material is dumped into the pug mill or the Steele 90 extruding machine, a machine that is capable
of producing enough units of brick to supply two tunnel kilns, water and Barium Carbonate is added which is pumped
up from two 1,000-gallon tanks and metered into the pug tub at various ratios dependent upon the tonnage production.
A quality control sample is taken at this point to determine the exact amount of pounds of Barium Carbonate that was
added and necessary to eliminate the white efflorescence to the brick after fired. Also, Lignosite, a 50 percent
neutralized additive, is added for reducing water content and increasing plasticity. After water and additives are added
to the clay mix it is then de-aired through a vacuum chamber having the required 26 inches to 27 inches of Hg, then
extruded in a die column which extends for 30 feet in length.
Slugs are then cut by a "Guilotine" slug cutter into
54 inch-lengths. Then it is conveyed to a pusher which pushes the slug through wires that are accurately spaced for the
size of the brick. In regular standard brick, the wires are spaced to give 20 units, leaving the end cuts to fall back
into the return belt conveyor and go back to the pug tub for re-use. The 20 units are then picked up automatically by the
"Lingl" machine and set directly on the kiln car in 6 separate hacks.
Loaded cars, 6 feet 8 inches wide by 10 feet 6 inches long of green brick (3360 brick per car of standard) are moved
directly into a warming room or holding room, of which the entrance is immediately adjacent to the hacking station.
The holding room has a capacity of 108 cars, 12 on each of 9 tracks. Temperature here is held to about 100 degrees F
at the exit end, using waste heat from the two kilns. From the holding rooms, the kiln cars are transferred to the
5-track, 150-foot long dryer. Each track holds 15 cars, with the entrance end of the dryer kept at approximately
100 degrees F, and 85 percent humidity. Exit temperature is 450 degrees F and zero humidity. The dryer is a counterflow
type, having 4 zones of controlled re-circulation, plus an input and discharge zone. Each dryer tunnel is enclosed
by hollow walls and four fans recirculate air through the tunnels, taking it off the top of the car and reintroducing
it at the bottom, through hollow walls. The volume of air circulated is controlled automatically by the opening and
closing of the fan louvres. This provides a large measure of temperature and humidity control and, in addition, there
is a manually controlled hot air spill in the approximate center of the dryer. Through the spill, the dryer operator
may exhaust hot air out of the dryer, if necessary. A cold air intake at the back of the dryer compensates for the
spilled air. Using these features, the temperatures and the humidity are accurately controlled at all points in the
From the dryer, cars are moved by transfer car to the Swindell-Dressler multi-burner direct-fired kilns, 378 feet long,
which is fired with natural gas, with a diesel oil standby system. The Swindell-Dressler kiln has 34 cars in length.
Approximately 8.6 tons of standard brick per car are put through the kiln each day.
The kilns were designed to handle a range of brick sizes not commonly found in the industry, since West Coast brick
does not conform to standard brick dimensions. The products today consist of:
Standard size - 2 1/4 x 3 3/4 x 8
Oversize - 3 1/2 x 3 x 9 1/2 wire-cut
Modular - 3 1/2 x 3 x 11 1/2 wire-cut
Jumbo - 3 1/2 x 3 1/2 x 11 1/2 Cored, Matte
Norman - 2 1/2 x 3 1/2 x 11 1/2 Cored, Velour, Matte
Modular Veneer - 7/8 x 3 1/2 x 11 1/2 wire-cut - 90 degree corners
Standard Pavers - 1 1/4 x 3 3/4 x 8 wire-cut
The colors are: Saturn Red, Saturn Red Flash, Autumn Brown, Burnt Oak, Charley Brown, Brownfield, Earthtone, Cinnabar, Old English, Driftwood, Toast, Rosewood, Doeskin, Graystone, Mushroom, Desert Sand, and Desert Rose.
The kiln schedule depends upon the inventory and production; in general we move one car in 72 minutes which is in the kiln about 40.8 hours, or 1 day and 17 hours. Maturing temperature is between 1,940 degrees F to 1,980 degrees F.
From the kilns, cars are transferred to unloading tracks paralleling the kiln and are unloaded by hand which are carefully graded and stacked on skids.
Approximately 70 skids or 40,000 to 50,000 of brick units are put in a tumbler machine to fabricate a Manufactured
used brick. Brick units consist of Red Flashed, Charley Brown, Regular Standard Blend and/or custom colored at the
request of customers. Additives that are added to the fabrication are White Plastic Cement, Lime and Manganese Oxide
to give the effect of used brick. Bricks are then restacked on skids and let to dry and ready for shipment.
A very well equipped laboratory constructed in 1980 is maintained on company premises. Laboratory personnel are in
charge of clay mining, new developed clays and all raw materials used in the plant operations are thoroughly tested
and controlled for uniform quality. Also, special projects are carried out along with constant up-grading and new
Higgins bricks added a variety of colors and textures to the walls of stores, condominiums, schools, and homes. The names in
the Evergreen Series were inspired by the colors in nature, such as Yellowstone, Spruce, Glacier Bay, Cumberland, and Sundance.
A few from the Shoreline Series were reminiscent of old projects in Los Angeles and include the cobbled Catalina, Cabrillo, and
A few examples of Higgins Chino Hills bricks can be seen at LA Fitness and The Alhambra in Alhambra, Nordstrom at Pico and Westwood in West Los Angeles, The Legacy Apartments in Westwood, and the walkways in Solvang. Although Higgins served mostly the Southern California region, some of their bricks were sent to large projects in Northern California, such as the 7.5 million Saturn Red pavers lining the walks along Market Street and Herman Plaza in San Francisco and the Broadway Plaza in Walnut Creek.
The pavers in San Francisco, shipped in 1972, were marked with the "Higgins" name on the side of the brick. Higgins did not normally mark
their bricks. They were marked only for special jobs. In the mid-2000s, Higgins produced 15 million thin brick (veneers),
but these were not very efficient to make in the type of large-sized kilns that were used at the Higgins Chino Hills plant.
After 48 years of operation at Chino Hills, the plant closed on August 31, 2011. The plant was dismantled and the property cleared for new development.
A general description of their common brick is given here and additional information is provided for the brand
names listed below. All bricks were made using the stiff-mud process, that is machine extruded and wire-cut to size.
Some show uniform coloring, while others may display flash colors of yellow, red, brown, or black. The sides are
smooth and may contain transverse grooves, crackles, and cracks. Stack indentions may be present on the sides. All
faces contain longitudinal grooves caused by the push-through wire-cuts. A distinguishing mark on the face is a
prominent transverse curved groove located about one-third of the distance from the short side of the brick. Textures
found on some of the bricks may be bark, ruffle, coated, or velour. Brand name of the company "HIGGINS" in thin block
letters is found recessed on the side of Saturn Red pavers (example shown above).
The name spans 3 1/4 inches and is 1/2 inch in height. The interior usually contains less than 5 percent white
cryptocrystalline quartz or granite, less than 1/4 inch in diameter, in a compact fine sandy red clay body. The standard
size is typically 8 inches long, 3 3/4 inches wide, and 2 1/8 inches thick.
Standard Red is red and has smooth sides with minor crackles, cracks, and tiny lumps on the surface. The long and middle edges are sharp, while the short edges are rounded. The corners are sharp.
Saturn Red is red and similar to the Standard Red brick. The short edges are rounded. The corners are sharp.
Red Flash is red with transverse yellow flash patterns on the sides. The short edges are rounded. The corners are sharp.
Common Flash is brownish red except on the sides with flash, which displays bright red with transverse yellowish-brown
Charley Brown is a dark grayish brown color with a rough surface, scaly in the longitudinal direction. The
corners and all edges are sharp. The faces contain a transverse velour texture with longitudinal grooves.
The following were part of the Classic Series. Burnt Oak is brownish red outlined in yellow flash. Some are burnt to
black with the red and yellow flash colors.
The surface is rough like a matte finish and crackled. The the corners and all edges are sharp. The brick is
shorter than the others with a length of 7 7/8 inches.
The following were part of the Antique Series. Antique is red with splashes of grayish white on all faces.
The edges are all sharp, but usually broken and the corners are broken from the cobble tumbler.
The following were part of the Estates Series. Many have the bark and coated texture applied to one side.
The following were part of the Evergreen Series. Many have the bark and coated texture applied to one side.
The following were part of the Mava series. These bricks had their edges and corners mashed prior to firing.
The following were part of the Shoreline Series. These bricks were sent to the cobble tumbler to roughen up the edges and corners
Red Flash Catalina is red with black flash on the sides. The sides are smooth with minor crackles on the
surface. The edges are dull or broken as if tumbled and deep cracks extends from the edges. Some ends are
brown. The length of the brick is 7 7/8 inches and the width is 3 1/2 inches.
Federal Census Records, 1900.
Federal Census Records, 1910.
Federal Census Records, 1920.
Federal Census Records, 1930.
Higgins Brick Company, Higgins Brick Company, unpublished plant tour report, 1988.
Higgins, Josh, written and personal communications, 2012-2013.
Higgins Brick Company, Higgins Brick Company, www.higginsbrick.com (accessed November 19, 2009).
Torrance Herald, Higgins Brick Major Supplier To Contractors, April 27, 1958, p. 20.
Contact Dan Mosier at firstname.lastname@example.org.