California brick

Holland Sandstone Brick Company


In January 1903, the Holland Sandstone Brick Company was incorporated in San Francisco with a capital stock of $100,000. The original directors of the company were John A. Buck, Nicholas Ohlandt, Nathaniel N. Wilson, Walter D. Bliss, Horace B. Chase, William S. Tevis, William G. Irwin, James Curran, William R. Whittier, and Clarence W. Coburn. Clarence W. Coburn was the president and John A. Buck, vice president. These were business men, capitalists, architects, and brickmakers from San Francisco, Bakersfield, and elsewhere. The main office was located at 69 Fremont Street in San Francisco. Their plan was to build and operate sand-lime brick plants throughout California. Their first plant was to be in Antioch in Contra Costa County, followed by plants in Bakersfield, Watsonville, and Los Angeles. The company name was inspired by The Hague in South Holland, Netherlands, where many sandstone brick buildings were built.

The company purchased 42 acres of waterfront property at Holland Landing, a mile east of Antioch on Wilbur Avenue. The brick plant stood a quarter mile west of the sand-lime plant of the Golden Gate Brick Company. This site was chosen for the large sand dunes that once stood over 50 feet in height and was a good source of fine sand needed for the sand-lime brick. The exact location of the Holland sand-lime plant was rediscovered by Sandra Kelly, a docent for the Antioch Dunes National Wildlife Refuge, who in July 2011 identified the location of the photograph of the Holland plant shown below and located some of the remnant bricks on the property. These brick samples are shown below.

Holland Sandstone Brick Co. brickyard
Post card view of the sand-lime plant of the Holland Sandstone Brick Company, c. 1906. Collection of Dan Mosier.

The Holland Sandstone Brick Company installed a well-equipped plant on the south side of the sand dunes. They installed brick presses and the Komnick System hardening cylinder powered by steam. Raw sand was screened, removing the coarser and finer materials, and mixed with a little lime and water in the pugmill. The mixture was then sent to the bins for final slacking before being thoroughly mixed again in the pugmill. The mixture was then pressed into standard-size brick form and stacked on cars. When the cars were fully loaded with brick, they were rolled into the hardening cylinder, which was 30 feet in length and 6 feet in diameter. Steam pressure of 120 pounds per square inch and heat up to 300 degrees F were applied to the bricks for 10 hours. Once the bricks were hardened, they were removed to the storage yard and stacked ready for shipment by rail. The plant had a spur rail line connected to the Santa Fe railroad. They also had a tunnel through the sand dunes for river access where bricks could be shipped by barges.

The Holland plant had three Komnick hardening cylinders, each with a capacity of 7,000 brick, and the brick press had a capacity of 10,000 to 12,000 brick per day. The plant started up in June 1903. During the first four months in 1904, the plant was temporarily closed to upgrade the equipment so it could increase the production to 40,000 brick per day. The standard sand-lime brick was light gray in color and weighed five pounds. In 1904, sand-lime bricks were available in other colors, such as pink shown in the example below. In 1905, the company erected a lime kiln house and new quarters for the company's employees at Antioch. The first plant superintendent was F. W. Moller. He was succeeded in 1907 by Mr. Tupper.

Holland sandstone bricks were shipped to building projects in the surrounding valley towns. The very first building built of Holland sand-lime brick was the Oasis Building at the southwest corner of Mission and Second streets in San Francisco. This building, built in 1903, survived the earthquake and fire of 1906, while all buildings around it had crumbled. The building still stands today on its original lot, but the bricks are hidden behind paint. It was reported that the sand-lime bricks in the walls of the Monadnock Building on Market Street in San Francisco are made by this company, however, the Golden Gate Brick Company, also of Antioch, claimed the brick in its advertisement. Other sand-lime bricks were used in a theater and the Simons Building in Stockton. One report in 1904 stated that the company had manufactured over 1 million bricks. A picture of the plant shows a large stock of bricks in the yard waiting to be shipped.

It is not known exactly when the Holland Sandstone Brick Company ceased manufacturing bricks. The last report of bricks from this company was in 1907, when the plant was having difficulties obtaining fuel. By 1919, the company was reported to be operating a sand mine. The company was not listed in the San Francisco city directories after 1919. The site of the Holland Sandstone Brick Company turned to sand mining as indicated by the remnant pits and quarries where sand dunes once stood. The plant site has been replaced in part by a gypsum processing plant and the Antioch Dunes National Wildlife Refuge.

Holland Sandstone Brick

The sand-lime brick is light gray and mostly uniform in color. An example of the pink colored brick is also shown below. The surface has a fine granular texture and a gritty feel. The form is good with straight and sharp edges and dull or broken corners. No marks were seen on the any of the faces. The brick spalls easily. The brick interior contains mostly subangular white quartz and 5 percent subangular white feldspar and other unidentified minerals, all less than 1/16 inch across. In the pink colored brick, the grains are stained a pinkish color with an unknown coloring agent added in the process. This brick was made using the dry pressed process. Length 8 1/4, width 3 7/8, height 2 1/4 - 2 1/2 inches.

Holland gray sand-lime brick
View of the face of the light gray Holland sandstone brick.

Holland gray sand-lime brick
View of a side of the light gray Holland sandstone brick.

Holland gray sand-lime brick interior
View of the interior of the light gray Holland sandstone brick.

Holland pink sand-lime brick
View of the face of the pink Holland sandstone brick.

Holland pink sand-lime brick interior
View of the interior of the pink Holland sandstone brick.


Aubrey, Lewis E., The Structural and Industrial Materials of California, California State Mining Bureau Bulletin 38, 1906, p. 166.

Another San Francisco Experience, Brick and Clay Record, v. 25, no. 2, August 1906, p. 81-82.

Brick and Clay Record, v. 18, no. 2, 1903, p. 104.

Brick and Clay Record, v. 19, no. 1, 1903, p. 34.

Brick and Clay Record, v. 20, no. 3, 1904, p. 150.

Brick and Clay Record, v. 20, no. 3, 1904, p. 197.

Brick and Clay Record, v. 20, no. 6, 1904, p. 338.

Brick and Clay Record, v. 23, no. 1, 1904, p. 190.

Brick and Clay Record, v. 23, no. 3, 1905, p. 93.

Brick and Clay Record, v. 23, no. 4, 1905, p. 140.

Brick and Clay Record, v. 26, no. 4, 1907, p. 190.

Davis, Fenelon F. and Goldman, Harold B., Mines and Mineral Resources of Contra Costa County, California, California State Mining Bureau, California Journal of Mines and Geology, v. 54, no. 4, 1958, p. 501-583.

Huguenin, E., and Castello, W. O., Mines and Mineral Resources Contra Costa County, California State Mining Bureau 17th Report of the State Mineralogist, Mining In California During 1920, 1921, p. 61.

Kelly, Sandra, written communications, 2011.

McMahon,T.A., Official Map of Contra Costa County, 1908.

Michigan Miner, The American Sandstone Brick Machinery Company, Manufacturers of the Komnick System Sandstone Brick Machinery, Saginaw, Michigan, v. 5, no. 9, Saginaw, Michigan, August 1903, p. 24.

San Francisco City Directories, 1903-1920.

Copyright 2011 Dan Mosier

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