California brick

Hunter and Shackleford


William Hunter and Thomas J. Shackleford, both natives of Virginia, came to San Francisco in 1872. In 1873, they went to San Mateo County to search for clay suitable for bricks and a site for a new brick plant. Finding both on the property of Lester P. Cooley at Ravenswood (now East Palo Alto), they obtained a lease on five acres of land near Cooley's Landing.

In April 1874, Hunter and Shackleford opened their new brick factory. This included seven field kilns and a number of pugmills. Wood for fuel was hauled from Woodside, Searsville, and La Honda. The clay pit (site now Jack Farrell Park) was north of the kilns. They ran rail cars to their private wharf and shipped bricks to San Francisco using their own ships "Dora" and "Heckla". They produced about 40,000 bricks a day. Up to 100 employees of mostly Chinese laborers worked at the brick yard.

Hunter and Shackleford brickyard
View of the Hunter and Shackleford brick operation at Ravenswood (now Jack Farrell Park,
East Palo Alto). Showing two field kilns and eight pugmills in the yard, and Cooley's Landing on
the bayshore where schooners transported bricks to San Francisco. From Moore and DePue, 1878.

In 1874, Hunter and Shackleford opened a business office at 415 Montgomery St., San Francisco. In 1877, they moved their office to 417 California St. The following year, they moved to 310 Pine St., where they remained for the next five years.

From 1874 to 1876, Hunter and Shackleford sent most of their bricks to the Palace Hotel in San Francisco. From 1876 to 1884, the bricks continued to be sold in San Francisco. In 1876, over 830,000 bricks marked "C H" were sent to be used in the San Francisco City Hall, but some were rejected for inferior quality. The rejected brick were described as small with too much sand in the clay causing it to be too brittle and it also was saturated with alkali, which produced unsightly efflorescences on the brick surface. It is possible that some of the bricks were used in the foundations of buildings at Ravenswood. Rejected bricks were crushed and used to gravel the road to Cooley's Landing. When the clay pit became exhausted in 1884, Hunter and Shackleford ended their lease and returned the property to the Cooley family.

During the ten years of operation, Hunter and Shackleford produced a total of 40 million bricks. This ranked them as the second largest producer of bricks in California at the time.

Hunter and Shackleford Brick

Common brick is hand-molded, orange, with smooth waterstruck surfaces, and visible minor (1 percent) round white clay and gray shale clasts, less than 1/8 inch in diameter, in a fine clay body. This brick was made using the hand-molded, water-struck, soft-mud process. No dimensions available.

Hunter and Shackleford brickHunter and Shackleford brick
Hunter and Shackleford brick bat from the kiln site. Left photo shows the smooth
face of one of the edges. Right photo shows the broken interior of the brick.

Palace Hotel at San Francisco
Hunter and Shackleford bricks were used in the original Palace Hotel, built
in 1874, but destroyed in the 1906 earthquake, San Francisco. 1906 Postcard.


Foss, Werner C., Jr., The History of Ravenswood, San Mateo Junior College, San Mateo, CA, 1942.

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

Rigenhagen, Rhonda, A History of East Palo Alto, Romic Chemical Corporation, 1993.

San Francisco City Directories, 1873-1884.

San Francisco Municipal Report, 1876.

The New City Hall, Daily Alta California, October 29, 1876.

Copyright 2004 Dan Mosier

Contact Dan Mosier at