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 2217 West 174th Street in Gardena (now 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 there 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.
The Higgins Santa Monica yard is the subject of this page. Formerly owned by the Pacific Brick Company, Mamie Higgins purchased the property, consisting of six lots in block 200 of Villa Farms, on March 28, 1944. This was about 23 acres on the northeast corner of Colorado Avenue and 26th Street. The yard office address was 2600 Colorado Avenue, Santa Monica.
The clay pit was about 1,200 feet by 900 feet, covering about 11 acres, and was worked to a depth of 50 feet. Here flat-lying
sandy brown clay was mined with only a couple feet of overburden that had to be removed. The pit was first opened by the
Western Brick Company in 1922. From about 1937 to 1940, the Pacific Brick Company mined the clay pit. When Higgins took
over in 1944, a Caterpillar carryall was used to convey the clay to the conveyor belt for a 300-foot haul up to the plant.
The plant was equipped with a dry-pan grinder, pug mill, an auger extruding machine, and a reel wire-cutter. Bricks
were sun dried and fired in large field kilns. In 1952, plant capacity was 100,000 brick per day with 30 workers. Walter Higgins
was the plant manager. This yard operated only during the dry season.
Red common and oversized bricks, in both smooth and rug textures, and hollow tile were produced at the Santa Monica yard. These
bricks were shipped by Higgins' own fleet of trucks throughout the Los Angeles region. Examples of the Higgins oversized rug brick
from a building built in 1967 for Gillette's Paper Mate Company are shown below. Bricks from this yard were used at UCLA,
Sawtelle Veterans' Hospital, St. John's Hospital, Santa Monica recreation centers, and many other businesses and homes. In 1970,
when Higgins was awarded the huge contract for supplying bricks for the $34 million Market Street Reconstruction Project in San
Francisco, some of the first bricks made for that project came from the Santa Monica plant. Every brick was required to be stamped,
so a bronze name roller was used to imprint "HIGGINS" on one side of each brick.
In the early 1950s, the Higgins Building Materials, Inc., was organized with Mrs. Mamie Higgins as president, Walter T. Higgins
as vice president, James Robert Higgins, Jr., as vice president, and Mrs. Winifred Loughborough as secretary and treasurer. An
office and building supply yard was located at 2600 Colorado Avenue, or 1617 26th Street. In 1968, with nearly depleted clay,
Higgins announced that the brickyard was closing. By 1972, Higgins had shut down the brickyard and its building material yard.
The Santa Monica yard made over 550 million bricks in its 26 years of operation. The cities of Santa Monica and Beverly Hills
used the clay pit for landfill until the surface was restored for development. The Higgins family still owns the Santa Monica
property and has been leasing it to businesses.
See the movies of the Santa Monica brickyard uploaded by Josh Higgins on YouTube.com at the following links:
Higgins Brick Santa Monica Plant Purchase
Higgins Brick Santa Monica Brick Plant
Higgins Brick Company Santa Monica Plant and Building Material Yard on 26th and Colorado
Higgins Brick Santa Monica Plant in Pictures and Film
Higgins oversized rug brick is orange-red and uniform in color. The form is excellent with straight sharp edges and dull corners.
The short edges are rounded. The wire-cut faces display curved grooves. One side and one end of the brick
display transverse rug texture. The reverse sides are smooth. Scores for the rug texture
are irregularly spaced from 1/16 to 3/16 inch apart; most are in pairs that are 1/16 inch apart. The scores are bordered by 3/8 inch
margins along the short edges. There are about 59 scores on the side and 11 scores on the end. On the surface of the brick are visible
subangular white quartz or granite. These constitute about 3 percent of the sandy clay body and range up to 1/4 inch in diameter.
This brick was made using the stiff-mud process. Length 15 3/8, width 3 1/8, height 5 3/8 inches.
City of Santa Monica, Districting Maps, Planning Department, May 1970.
Federal Census Records, 1910.
Federal Census Records, 1920.
Federal Census Records, 1930.
Federal Census Records, 1940.
Gay, T.E., and Hoffman, S.R., Mines and Mineral Resources of Los Angeles County, California, California State Mining Bureau, California Journal of Mines and Geology, v. 50, no. 3-4, 1954, p. 467-709.
Higgins, Josh, written and personal communications, 2012-2014.
Higgins, Ronald, personal communications, 2014.
Hogan, Pat, Brick Yard Closes In Style, Santa Monica Evening Outlook, January 4, 1968.
Los Angeles County Land Records, Pacific Brick Co. to Mamie Higgins, James, Jr., Higgins, Walter Higgins, and Winifred Loughborough, Grant Deed, March 28, 1944, p. 286-287.
Santa Monica City Directory, 1947-1948.
Santa Monica City Directory, 1952-1953.
Santa Monica City Directory, 1960-1961.
State of California Regional Water Quality Control Board, Modified Cleanup and Abatement Order No. R4-2008-0034, File No. 97-176, 2010.
U.S. Geological Survey, Beverly Hills, 7.5 Minute Quadrangle Map, 1950.
Contact Dan Mosier at email@example.com.