California brick
CALIFORNIA BRICKS


Houze Brick and Cement Company

Press Brick and Supply Company

Hoffman's Brick Works

History


 brick
Houze Brick and Cement Company yard is on the left, Vallejo, 1917. The shale
quarry is right of the plant in the rear. Hyfire Brick Company yard is on the
right. From the Vallejo Times Herald, 1976.


On July 23, 1908, the Press Brick and Supply Company purchased the 25-acre brickyard property at the end of Wilson Road for $4,000 from the Hyfire Brick Company in an effort to reorganized the latter company. Press Brick and Supply Company was managed by G. Abrahamson of Oakland, and he had planned to spend $50,000 in improving and expanding the existing brick plant. This plant was sometimes referred to as the Abrahamson brick works. On August 23, 1909, the Vallejo Chronicle reported that the Houze Brick and Cement Company had absorbed the Press Brick and Supply Company, which at the time had a stock of over 600,000 building and face bricks. The Press Brick and Supply Company sold the 25-acre brickyard property to the Houze Company on November 6, 1909 for $8,555.35. The Houze Company had acquired a total of 52 acres of land for the new brickyard. The company was planning to produce a patented fire brick of magnesia and silica, developed by Luke Houze of Monterey in 1906 and patented in early 1909. However, there is no evidence that firebricks were ever made. They also were planning to manufacture paving brick, even though the paving brick market in California was relatively small. Although the company that controlled the brickyard was the Houze Brick and Cement Company, the Vallejo newspapers continued to call it the Press Brick and Supply Company. The officers of the Houze Brick and Cement Company were Christian Hoffman, president; W.C. Little, secretary; and C.F. Niklaus, superintendent.

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View of the Houze Brick and Cement Company yard and wharf (right), Vallejo, 1922. The
Vallejo Brick and Tile Company works are on the left. From the Vallejo Times Herald, 1972.


The Houze Company had 30 to 60 feet of shale deposit on its property that was used to manufacture face and paving bricks. The brick plant contained the equipment for grinding and screening the clay, a pugmill, and a brick press. The bricks were fired using oil in a large continuous kiln of 10,000-brick capacity. The exhaust chimney was 50 feet tall.

Orders began to come in at the end of 1909. In December 1909, barges took 55,000 bricks for a large building in San Francisco. In January 1910, over 60,000 bricks were shipped by schooners to Napa. The company was also awarded the contract to furnish 210,000 bricks to the Scofield Construction Company to be used at the dry docks at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. In February, Architect E.L. Van Cleeck ordered 40,000 face bricks for a three-story building he was building on Pacific Avenue in Santa Cruz. Van Cleeck prounounced the bricks "the finest he had found in the State." The face bricks were shipped out on the Southern Pacific railroad. Over 4,000 bricks were used locally in the foundations of the Hollman House at Virginia and Santa Clara streets in Vallejo. Over 20,000 bricks were used in the new office building at the Naval magazine at Mare Island. In June 1910, 90,000 bricks were used in the Schwartz Building, which still stands at 320 Georgia Street in Vallejo, but unfortunately, the beautiful pressed bricks are concealed behind paint. In August 1910, 28,000 pressed bricks were shipped to Sausalito to be used in the new public library building. These bricks were used to face the front and rear walls of the building, which was at one time Sausalito's City Hall, that still stands as the magnificent Gene Hiller store on Bridgeway Avenue in Sausalito. The Gene Hiller store provides the examples below of the beautiful pressed brick made by the Houze Brick Company.

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View of the Hiller Store at 725 Bridgeway Avenue in Sausalito
faced with Houze brick. Photo by Dan Mosier, 2001.


After 1910, demand for building bricks started to decline and the Houze brickyard eventually closed. In 1914, the property was sold to Christian Hoffman of Santa Cruz for $52,000, and it became known as the Hoffman's Brick Works, but the brickyard remained idle. On December 9, 1919, following the death of Hoffman, the property was transferred to Frank J. Hoffman. The buildings and kiln were dismantled sometime after 1922 and all evidence of the Houze brickyard has been erased.

Houze Pressed Brick


The Houze pressed brick is red and mostly uniform in color. The surface is smooth with minor tiny pits and on some weathered surfaces can be seen the granular internal material. Grooves, cracks, or scratches are rare to absent. Tiny (less than 1/32 inch) white quartz may appear on the surface. The faces could not be observed, but are probably similar to the sides. The interior is composed of compact fine granular red clay, with about 5 percent subangular white quartz and rounded white clay, less than 1/16 inch in diameter. This brick is very similar in appearance to the Richmond red pressed brick and may be easily mistaken for it, except the Richmond brick contains black iron oxide and white quartz is absent. This brick was made using the dry pressed process and is a high quality hard brick. Length 8 1/8, width 4, height 2 1/4 inches.

View of the sides of the Houze pressed brick on second floor.
View of the sides of the Houze pressed brick on the second floor.


View of the sides of the Houze pressed brick on the second floor.
View of the sides of the Houze pressed brick on the second floor.

View of the sides of the Houze pressed brick on the second floor.
View of the sides of the Houze pressed brick on the first floor.

View of the Houze pressed brick. Note the granular interior in the broken corner and pressed granular surface.
View of the Houze pressed brick. Note the granular interior with white quartz and clay in the
broken edge and the granular surface reflecting in the sunlight to the right of the broken edge.

Close-up view of the surface of the pressed Houze brick
Close-up view of the surface of the Houze pressed brick.

References

Acuna, Jaime, Manager of Gene Hiller Importer of Fine Menswear, personal communications, 2014.

Bradley, W.W., Mines and Mineral Resources of Portions of California, Part 2: The Counties of Colusa, Glenn, Lake, Marin, Napa, Solano, Sonoma, Yolo. California State Mining Bureau 14th Report of the State Mineralogist, for the Biennial Period 1913-1914, 1916, p. 244-247.

Brick and Clay Record, v. 29, no. 1, 1908, p. 376.

Brick and Clay Record, v. 29, no. 5, 1908, p. 501.

Brick and Clay Record, v. 32, no. 4, 1910, p. 235.

Brick and Clay Record, v. 32, no. 3, 1910, p. 195.

Brick and Clay Record, v. 44, no. 12, 1914, p. 1426.

Brick That Will Stand Fire, Architect and Engineer, v. 6, no. 1, August 1906, p. 48-49.

Brick Works Secure Santa Cruz Contract, Vallejo Chronicle, February 10, 1910.

California Patents, San Francisco Call, May 20, 1909.

Furnish 4,000 Brick For New Foundation, Vallejo Chronicle, February 9, 1910.

Great Brick Works, Vallejo Chronicle, August 23, 1909.

Kern, James E., Executive Director of the Vallejo Naval and Historical Museum, personal communication, 2013.

Local Brick For Magazine, Vallejo Chronicle, February 23, 1910.

Local Brick in Schwartz Building, Vallejo Chronicle, June 24, 1910.

Local Brick Works Gets Big Contract For Pearl Harbor, Vallejo Chronicle, January 19, 1910.

Napa Takes Brick, Vallejo Chronicle, January 26, 1910.

Napa Using Vallejo Brick, Vallejo Chronicle, January 15, 1910.

Press Brick and Supply Company After Contract, March 18, 1910.

Sanborn Map Company, Vallejo, Solano County, Cal. New York, March 1919.

Sausalito Planning Department, Building permit files for 731 Bridgeway, 1990-1992.

Ship 32,000 Brick Away, Vallejo Chronicle, December 9, 1909.

Solano County Deeds, Estate of Christian Hoffmann to Frank J. Hoffmann, December 8, 1919, Book 217, p. 1.

Solano County Deeds, Hyfire Brick Company to Press Brick and Supply Company, July 23, 1908, Book 171, p. 135.

Solano County Deeds, Press Brick and Supply Company to Houze Brick and Cement Company, November 6, 1909, Book 172, p. 465.

Takes 23,000 Brick, Vallejo Chronicle, December 15, 1909.

Vallejo Times Herald, January 25, 1976.

Vallejo Times Herald, November 5, 1972.

Visited Local Brick Works, Vallejo Chronicle, February 4, 1910.

Will Ship Brick Out, Vallejo Chronicle, February 14, 1910.

Copyright 2014 Dan Mosier

Contact Dan Mosier at danmosier@earthlink.net.