California brick
CALIFORNIA BRICKS


Higgins Brick sign


Higgins Brick Company, Chino Hills

History

James Robert Higgins (1879-1937) was born in Ford County, Illinois. There he learned the trade of brickmaking at a local brickyard. In 1905, he married Mamie West and in 1909, they moved to Los Angeles, California, where three children were born, James Robert Jr., Walter Taft, and Winifred.

In 1910, Robert worked as a brickmaker at the K & K brickyard in Los Angeles. By 1920, he was operating a chicken farm. In 1927, he re-entered the brick business when he opened his first brickyard at the former Star Brick Company plant at 2217 West 174th Street in Gardena (later Torrance) in Los Angeles County. When Robert died in 1937, his wife Mamie became president of the company and manager of the brickyards. Her sons, James and Walter, became vice-presidents and foremen, and daughter Winifred became the secretary-treasurer. In 1944, they reopened the Pacific Brick Company plant at Santa Monica and opened a new yard at Monterey Park in 1946. About 1958, they purchased over 100 acres of clay land at 15920 Pomona Rincon Road in Chino Hills, San Bernardino County. A modern brick plant was built and opened in 1963. These plants had a total capacity of approximately 60 million common brick equivalent annually. Four generations of the Higgins family operated these brickyards until the closing of the last plant at Chino Hills in 2011.

Higgins brickyard Chino Hills
Aerial view of the Higgins Chino Hills yard. Photo courtesy of Josh Higgins.


Higgins brickyard Chino Hills
View of the front of the Higgins brick plant at Chino Hills, San Bernardino County. Photo by Dan Mosier, 2005.


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 and Clay Preparation


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).


Higgins clay mine Chino Hills
View of the clay pit at the Higgins Chino Hills yard. Photo courtesy of Josh Higgins.


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.

Higgins clay shed Chino Hills
View of the clay shed at the rear of the brick plant. Photo by Dan Mosier, 2005.


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.

Brick Processing


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.

extruder at Higgins Chino Hills
View of the extruder and die column. Photo courtesy of Josh Higgins.



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.

guilotine slug cutter at Higgins brickyard Chino Hills
View of the guilotine slug cutter that cuts the clay column into 54-inch slugs. Photo courtesy of Josh Higgins.


slugs at Higgins brickyard Chino Hills
View of the slugs on the right. A fly-wheel cutter is seen on the left. Photo courtesy of Josh Higgins.


slug pusher at Higgins brickyard Chino Hills
View of the pusher (left) and wires (right) that cuts the slug (on the conveyor) into units of standard bricks. Photo courtesy of Josh Higgins.


Lingl lifts at Higgins brickyard Chino Hills
View of the yellow Lingl machine that automatically lifts the 20 units to set on the kiln car. Photo courtesy of Josh Higgins.



Drying


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 dryer.

kiln cars at Higgins brickyard Chino Hills
View of the loaded kiln cars in the warming room. Photo courtesy of Josh Higgins.



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.

Versatility Featured Kilns


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.


View of the two Swindell-Dressler multi-burner kilns. Photo courtesy of Josh Higgins.


kilns at Higgins brickyard Chino Hills
View of the kiln interior. Photo courtesy of Josh Higgins.


firing in kiln at Higgins brickyard Chino Hills
View of the firing in the kiln. Photo courtesy of Josh Higgins.


Manufactured Used Brick


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.

cobble tumbler at Higgins brickyard Chino Hills
Close-up view of the cobble tumbler for making manufactured used brick at Chino Hills. Photo courtesy of Josh Higgins.


cobble tumbler at Higgins brickyard Chino Hills
Making manufactured used brick at Chino Hills. Photo courtesy of Josh Higgins.


finished brick stacks at Higgins brickyard Chino Hills
View of the finished bricks stacked on pallets in the brickyard. Photo by Dan Mosier, 2005.


Plant Laboratory


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 colors.

rotating brand at Higgins brickyard Chino Hills
View of the rotating brand used on the side of pavers for Market Street in San Francisco. Photo courtesy of Josh Higgins.


Higgins Chino Hills paver
View of a marked Saturn Red paver similar to those placed on Market Street in San Francisco. Photo by Dan Mosier.


texture drum at Higgins Chino Hills
View of a texture drum used to imprint bark patterns on the clay column. Photo courtesy of Josh Higgins.


ruffled texture machine at Higgins Chino Hills
View of the reverse-turning wires used to make the ruffled texture on the clay column. Photo courtesy of Josh Higgins.


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 Westlake bricks.

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.

Higgins Chino Hills pavers for Market Street San Francisco
View of the Higgins pavers delivered for the Market Street project in San Francisco in 1972. Photo courtesy of Josh Higgins.


Higgins Chino Hills pavers laid on Market Street San Francisco
View of the laying of the Market Street pavers in San Francisco. Photo courtesy of Josh Higgins.


Higgins Chino Hills commemorative paver brick
View of the commemorative brick for the Market Street Development Project in San Francisco. Photo courtesy of Josh Higgins.


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.

Higgins Brick

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.

Higgins Chino Hills Standard red brick side
View of the side of the Standard Red brick.

Higgins Chino Hills Standard red brick face
View of the face of the Standard Red brick. Note the transverse curved groove about 2 to 3 inches
from the left side of the brick. This commonly seen groove helps to identify Higgins bricks.


Saturn Red is red and similar to the Standard Red brick. The short edges are rounded. The corners are sharp.

Higgins Chino Hills Saturn red brick side
View of the side of the Saturn Red brick.


Red Flash is red with transverse yellow flash patterns on the sides. The short edges are rounded. The corners are sharp.

Higgins Chino Hills Red Flash brick side
View of the side of the Red Flash brick.


Common Flash is brownish red except on the sides with flash, which displays bright red with transverse yellowish-brown flash colors.

Higgins Chino Hills Common Flash brick side
View of the side of the Common Flash brick.


Higgins Chino Hills Common Flash brick side
View of the side of the Common Flash brick displaying the flash colors.


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.

Higgins Chino Hills Charley Brown brick side
View of the side of the Charley Brown brick.


Higgins Chino Hills Charley Brown brick face
View of the face of the Charley Brown brick.


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.

Higgins Chino Hills Burnt Oak brick side
View of the side of the Burnt Oak brick.


Higgins Chino Hills Burnt Oak brick face
View of the face of the Burnt Oak brick.


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.

Higgins Chino Hills Antique brick side
View of the side of the Antique brick.


Higgins Chino Hills Antique brick face
View of the face of the Antique brick.


Higgins Chino Hills Antique panel
View of the Antique brick sample panel.


Higgins Chino Hills Monument panel
View of the Monument brick sample panel.


Higgins Chino Hills Landmark panel
View of the Landmark brick sample panel.


The following were part of the Estates Series. Many have the bark and coated texture applied to one side.

Higgins Chino Hills Autumn Harvest panel
View of the Autumn Harvest brick sample panel.


Higgins Chino Hills Autumn Mist panel
View of the Autumn Mist brick sample panel.


Higgins Chino Hills Brookstone panel
View of the Brookstone brick sample panel.


Higgins Chino Hills Buckskin panel
View of the Buckskin brick sample panel.


Higgins Chino Hills Cajun Spice panel
View of the Cajun Spice brick sample panel.


Higgins Chino Hills California Used panel
View of the California Used brick sample panel.


Higgins Chino Hills Castle Rock panel
View of the Castle Rock brick sample panel.


Higgins Chino Hills Chestnut panel
View of the Chestnut brick sample panel.


Higgins Chino Hills Claret Blaze panel
View of the Claret Blaze brick sample panel.


Higgins Chino Hills Delaware panel
View of the Delaware brick sample panel.


Higgins Chino Hills Disney Sands panel
View of the Disney Sands brick sample panel.


Higgins Chino Hills Greenland panel
View of the Greenland brick sample panel.


Higgins Chino Hills Ironwood panel
View of the Ironwood brick sample panel.


Higgins Chino Hills Mosswood panel
View of the Mosswood brick sample panel.


Higgins Chino Hills Old English panel
View of the Old English brick sample panel.


Higgins Chino Hills Old Hampton panel
View of the Old Hampton brick sample panel.


Higgins Chino Hills Old Hampton Bronze panel
View of the Old Hampton Bronze brick sample panel.


Higgins Chino Hills Old Hampton Red panel
View of the Old Hampton Red brick sample panel.


Higgins Chino Hills Old Redding panel
View of the Old Redding brick sample panel.


Higgins Chino Hills Old Town panel
View of the Old Town brick sample panel.


Higgins Chino Hills Sagewood panel
View of the Sagewood brick sample panel.


Higgins Chino Hills Sandhurst panel
View of the Sandhurst brick sample panel.


Higgins Chino Hills Savannah panel
View of the Savannah brick sample panel.


Higgins Chino Hills Shasta panel
View of the Shasta brick sample panel.


Higgins Chino Hills Silver Springs panel
View of the Silver Springs brick sample panel.


Higgins Chino Hills Thomasville panel
View of the Thomasville brick sample panel.


Higgins Chino Hills Warm Springs panel
View of the Warm Springs brick sample panel.


Higgins Chino Hills Wrightwood panel
View of the Wrightwood brick sample panel.


The following were part of the Evergreen Series. Many have the bark and coated texture applied to one side.

Higgins Chino Hills Aiden panel
View of the Aiden brick sample panel.


Higgins Chino Hills Astoria panel
View of the Astoria brick sample panel.


Higgins Chino Hills Cambria panel
View of the Cambria brick sample panel.


Higgins Chino Hills Crestline panel
View of the Crestline brick sample panel.


Higgins Chino Hills Crestline Paver panel
View of the Crestline Paver brick sample panel.


Higgins Chino Hills Cumberland panel
View of the Cumberland brick sample panel.


Higgins Chino Hills Cumberland Paver panel
View of the Cumberland Paver brick sample panel.


Higgins Chino Hills Gaslamp panel
View of the Gaslamp brick sample panel.


Higgins Chino Hills Gaslamp Paver panel
View of the Gaslamp Paver brick sample panel.


Higgins Chino Hills Glacier Bay panel
View of the Glacier Bay brick sample panel.


Higgins Chino Hills Glacier Bay Paver panel
View of the Glacier Bay Paver brick sample panel.


Higgins Chino Hills Haystack panel
View of the Haystack brick sample panel.


Higgins Chino Hills Haystack Paver panel
View of the Haystack Paver brick sample panel.


Higgins Chino Hills Macon panel
View of the Macon brick sample panel.


Higgins Chino Hills Macon Paver panel
View of the Macon Paver brick sample panel.


Higgins Chino Hills Moraga panel
View of the Moraga brick sample panel.


Higgins Chino Hills Moraga Paver panel
View of the Moraga Paver brick sample panel.


Higgins Chino Hills Rocklin panel
View of the Rocklin brick sample panel.


Higgins Chino Hills Rocklin Paver panel
View of the Rocklin Paver brick sample panel.


Higgins Chino Hills Seneca panel
View of the Seneca brick sample panel.


Higgins Chino Hills Somerset panel
View of the Somerset brick sample panel.


Higgins Chino Hills Somerset Paver panel
View of the Somerset Paver brick sample panel.


Higgins Chino Hills Spruce panel
View of the Spruce brick sample panel.


Higgins Chino Hills Spruce Paver panel
View of the Spruce Paver brick sample panel.


Higgins Chino Hills Storm Cloud panel
View of the Storm Cloud brick sample panel.


Higgins Chino Hills Storm Cloud Paver panel
View of the Storm Cloud Paver brick sample panel.


Higgins Chino Hills Sundance panel
View of the Sundance brick sample panel.


Higgins Chino Hills Sundance Paver panel
View of the Sundance Paver brick sample panel.


Higgins Chino Hills Windamere panel
View of the Windamere brick sample panel.


Higgins Chino Hills Windamere Paver panel
View of the Windamere Paver brick sample panel.


Higgins Chino Hills Yellowstone panel
View of the Yellowstone brick sample panel.


Higgins Chino Hills Yellowstone Paver panel
View of the Yellowstone Paver brick sample panel.


The following were part of the Mava series. These bricks had their edges and corners mashed prior to firing.

Higgins Chino Hills El Paso panel
View of the El Paso brick sample panel.


Higgins Chino Hills Juarez panel
View of the Juarez brick sample panel.


Higgins Chino Hills Vera Cruz panel
View of the Vera Cruz brick sample panel.


The following were part of the Shoreline Series. These bricks were sent to the cobble tumbler to roughen up the edges and corners after firing.

Higgins Chino Hills Avalon panel
View of the Avalon brick sample panel.


Higgins Chino Hills Avalon Paver panel
View of the Avalon Paver brick sample panel.


Higgins Chino Hills Balboa panel
View of the Balboa brick sample panel.


Higgins Chino Hills Balboa Paver panel
View of the Balboa Paver brick sample panel.


Higgins Chino Hills Cabrillo panel
View of the Cabrillo brick sample panel.


Higgins Chino Hills Cabrillo Paver panel
View of the Cabrillo Paver brick sample panel.


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.

Higgins Chino Hills Red Flash Catalina side
View of the side of the Red Flash Catalina brick.


Higgins Chino Hills Red Flash Catalina end
View of the brown end of the Red Flash Catalina brick.


Higgins Chino Hills Catalina panel
View of the Catalina brick sample panel.


Higgins Chino Hills Catalina Paver panel
View of the Catalina Paver brick sample panel.


Higgins Chino Hills Hermosa 2 panel
View of the Hermosa 2 brick sample panel.


Higgins Chino Hills Westlake panel
View of the Westlake brick sample panel.


Higgins Chino Hills Westlake Paver panel
View of the Westlake Paver brick sample panel.


Source

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.



Copyright 2013 Dan Mosier

Contact Dan Mosier at danmosier@earthlink.net.