California brick

William Whipple Hull


William Whipple Hull, a New York native, arrived in San Carlos in 1858 and purchased 45 acres of land from Timothy Guy Phelps. He established his brickyard, known as the "Pioneer Brick Yard," on what was then called Cypress Street (now San Carlos Avenue), between Elm and Walnut streets. Clay was taken from surface pits on his property. Hull may have been the first brickmaker in San Mateo County.

Hull made red common bricks, at first using wooden molds to form the bricks, which were fired in wood-burning field kilns. By 1885, he was using a brick press to make pressed brick. Hull blended three different clays from his property to make hard bricks, which were in great demand.

Hull brick ad
Hull brick advertisement from the San Mateo Times-Gazette, June 29, 1872.

Hull bricks were used in nearly every early brick building in the Belmont, San Carlos, and Redwood City area. These include the San Mateo County Jail (1876), Hanson's warehouse (1875), Kuck's Building (1872), Plump's Building (1872), and Germania Hall (1872), all in Redwood City, Flood's Linden Towers Estate (1878) in Menlo Park, the Hull residence (1875) on Hull Drive in San Carlos, and in the foundations and chimneys of early homes. Surviving examples of Hull's brick can be seen at the Diller Store (1859) at 726 Main Street in Redwood City.

Hull bricks were also shipped to San Francisco for construction of the first Palace Hotel, first brick Post Office, Fort Mason, and San Quentin Prison. These jobs no doubt were born out of his good reputation as a brickmaker in San Francisco when he first operated a yard on Mission Creek from 1853 to 1857, before moving to San Carlos.

Diller Store at Redwood City
Diller Store, 726 Main St., Redwood City, made of Hull bricks in 1859.

Such was the demand for Hull brick, that he was called elsewhere to help make bricks on site, such as at the New Almaden mercury mines near San Jose, brick construction jobs in Gilroy, and even the San Quentin Prison brickyard in Marin County. Therefore, it is possible to find Hull bricks in other counties around the San Francisco Bay.

William Whipple Hull is a descendant of one the signers of the Declaration of Independence, William Whipple. Hull came to California in 1850 to try his luck in the goldfields. After little success, he returned to San Francisco, where he met Rosana Duffy of Quincy, Massachusetts. They got married and had three sons and one daughter. In 1853, Hull established a brickyard on the banks of Mission Creek in San Francisco, where he supplied bricks for some of the first brick buildings in that city. In 1858, he moved his brickyard to San Carlos. Hull passed away in November 1904 at the age of 82 years.

His children did not follow him into the brick business. The eldest son Henry was a baggage master at the Southern Pacific depot. The rest, Guy, Asa, and Mary, embarked in a hardware store business in Redwood City. Asa also started the San Carlos Dairy and was elected mayor of San Carlos in 1932. The last member of the Hull family, Mary, lived in the family home until she passed away in 1946. The Hull's two-story brick home was demolished the following year. The Hull family is interred at the St. John's Cemetery in San Mateo.

Hull Brick

Common brick is red to red-brown, with uniform to varied colors. The surface is coated with sand. The edges are nearly straight and sharp. The corners are dull. The bottom face is flat and even. The top face is rough and pitted with a longitudinal strike and an irregular thin lip around the edge up to 1/8 inch thick. No maker's marks have been found on these bricks. The sides may have transverse striations or longitudinal grooves. Some display faint yellow flashings, overburns, and cracks. The surface may show a few subrounded clasts and pits up to 1/2 inch across. The interior body contains about 20 percent subrounded to subangular black and gray shale, reddish brown sandstone, red and white chert, black basalt, and white quartz in a fine porous orange clay body. The clast sizes are mostly less than 1/4 inch across, but a few are up to 1/2 inch across. This is a hand-molded, soft-mud, sand-struck brick, in a wide range of sizes. Length 8 1/4 - 8 1/2, width 3 1/4 - 4, height 2 1/4 - 2 3/8 inches.

Hull brick
View of the sides of Hull bricks.

Hull brick
View of the sides of Hull bricks showing the yellow flashing and irregular thin lip.

Hull brick interior
View of the orange interior clay body of the Hull brick displaying subrounded red
sandstone, red chert, gray and black shale, black basalt, white quartz clasts, and pores.


Garvey, Linda W., San Carlos Stories, An Oral History of the City of Good Living, San Carlos, CA, 2000.

Moore and DePue, Illustrated History of San Mateo County, California, 1878.

Gazette-Times, Redwood City, 1872-1885.

Svanevik, Michael, and Burgett, Shirley, San Carlos family left its mark on the Peninsula, San Mateo Times, September 23, 1994, p. B5.

Copyright 2004 Dan Mosier

Contact Dan Mosier at