Fred Shilzony first brought this brickyard to my attention when he sent an email
asking about the bricks stuck in the mud in Lyford's Cove on the shores of Strawberry Point
in Mill Valley. This brickyard was unknown to me and it was not reported in any
history books or articles that I was aware of. But there it was, designated on a
park sign as Brickyard Park on Great Circle Drive, Mill Valley. His daughter also sent
pictures of Brickyard Park and of the red bricks along the shoreline. This prompted a
visit to the park to observe and document the bricks. Preliminary research has shed
some light on the brickmaker of this operation which follows.
In 1870, there was a John Kearney, aged 45 years and a native of Ireland, working
as a stone cutter in Newcastle, Placer County. It is possible that this was the same
John Kearney who started making bricks on Strawberry Point during the 1870s. The
property was owned by Hilarita Reed, who had inherited the land from her father John
Reed, a prominent landowner and lumberman in Mill Valley. When Hilarita married Dr. Benjamin
Lyford, a Canadian physician turned farmer, the brickyard site became known as Lyford's Cove.
John Kearney probably had leased Lyford's property for his brickyard.
By 1880, Kearney had hired Hugh Monahan, an Irish brick molder, and ten laborers, mostly Irish.
The clay was dug from the slopes of the cove and thrown into
wooden molds to form bricks. The bricks were sand-struck and fired in field kilns, probably
on the flat where the children's playground now stands. The orange-red bricks were used locally in
Mill Valley. The production rate is unknown but from the size of the operation, it
was probably small. We don't know when Kearney closed his brickyard, but it is
possible that it was closed by 1883, when brick prices were declining and the area was
subdivided for residential development. The brickyard was not listed in an 1882 news
article about Marin County bricks. Residential development on Strawberry Point did not begin
One building still standing at 7 W. Blithedale, Mill Valley, has a foundation made of Kearney
bricks. There may be other buildings and the foundations and chimneys in the homes of Mill Valley
made of Kearney bricks. The shores of Lyford's Cove is littered with broken brick and
rejects from the kiln. Some of the bricks were also used in the base of the Brickyard
Common brick is pale orange to pale red, mostly uniform in color. The surface is sand-struck.
The sides display small pits. The subrounded clasts, up to 3/8 inch across and constituting
about 25 percent of the volume, are red and black sandstone and red chert and minor white
quartz. Faint transverse grooves are visible on the sides and some have yellow flash marks.
Some display 1/8 to 1/4 inch irregular lip around the top edges. The bottom face is flat and
even with unusual longitudinal coarse brush striations. The top face is pitted and displays
longitudinal strike with coarse brush striations. The edges are irregular and dull. The corners
are dull. Interior clay body shows abundant clasts and can be quite porous with large pits.
The size of the bricks ranges considerably. The underfired bricks tend to be orange
and closer to standard size. The overfired bricks are pale red and narrower and thinner in size.
This brick was made using the hand-molded, sand-struck, soft-mud process. Length 8 1/2 - 8 3/8,
width 3 3/8 - 4, height 2 1/4 - 2 1/2 inches.
View of the side of a Kearney brick.
View of the top face of a Kearney brick.
View of the bottom face of a Kearney brick.
View of the interior clay body of a Kearney brick.
View of a smaller size, pale red Kearney brick.
View of an eroded face of a Kearney brick showing abundant clasts.
View of the interior clay body of a Kearney brick showing clasts and large pits.
Microscopic view of the interior clay body of the
Kearney brick (50x, field of view is 1/4 inch).
Federal Census Records, 1880.
Copyright © 2007 Dan Mosier
San Francisco Call, Bricks, 1882.
Shilzony, Fred, written communications, 2007.
Teather, Louise, Place Names of Marin, Scottwall Associates, San Francisco, CA, 1986.