California brick
CALIFORNIA BRICKS


Los Angeles Brick Company Plant No. 1, Chavez Ravine, Los Angeles

Los Angeles Brick Company advertisement. Los Angeles City Directory, 1924.
Los Angeles Brick Company advertisement. Los Angeles City Directory, 1924.

History


In January 1900, several Los Angeles capitalists formed a new brick trust to control the brick trade in Los Angeles, California. They negotiated with the owners of ten brickyards in Los Angeles for the purchase of their property. They were successful in purchasing five of the brickyard properties. These included two brickyards owned by Goss and Hubbard, who operated under the name of City Brick Company at Chavez Ravine and at Mission Road; the yard of Edward Simons in Chavez Ravine; the yard of Reuben G. Simons on East Seventh Street; and the yard of Thomas Joyce in Chavez Ravine. The other five brickyard owners refused to join the brick trust. It was stipulated by the brick trust that the former owners must keep out of the brick business in that neighborhood unless hired by the new corporation.

On January 10, 1900, a newspaper reported that the Los Angeles Brick Company was incorporated with a capital stock of $500,000, divided into 5,000 shares, of which amount $20,000 had been subscribed. The directors were W. F. Botsford, T. E. Newlin, M. H. Newmark, George W. Beck, M. S. Hellman, and Samuel M. Newmark, all of Los Angeles. Other stockholders were Phineas Newmark, J. F. Sartori, Henderson Hayward, and A. H. Conger. Initial officers were W. F. Botsford as president, M. H. Newmark as vice-president, and T. E. Newlin as secretary and manager. The company office was located at 125 West Second Street in Los Angeles and at the Security Building at 510 South Spring Street in Los Angeles, before it was later moved to its yard on Mission Road in Los Angeles.

This article will focus on the Los Angeles Brick Company Plant No. 1, which was formerly owned by the City Brick Company in Chavez Ravine. In January 1900, the City Brick Company sold this property to the Los Angeles Brick Company, along with its second yard on Mission Road, for $61,195. The yard of 26 acres was located on Chavez Ravine Road (now Stadium Way), near the present intersection with Lilac Terrace south of the Dodger Stadium. The large clay quarry face is still evident along the south side of Stadium Way. The flat below the quarry was where the brick plant stood.

View of the Los Angeles Brick Company Plant No. 1 in Chavez Ravine.
View of the Los Angeles Brick Company Plant No. 1 in Chavez Ravine. Clay quarry and continuous kiln are on the
right, drying sheds and molding plant are in the center, and field kilns are on the left. From Aubrey, 1906.

The clay mined in Chavez Ravine was in the Miocene age Puente Formation, forming a bank over 1,000 feet long and 100 feet high. The shale occurs in thin beds separated by thin sandstone beds. Some of the shale was described as highly plastic. The shale was extracted by the use of dynamite, which was the cause of major protest by the neighbors and may have led to the eventual closing of this yard. The clay was excavated by a team and scraper and dumped into a hopper and delivered to a car. The car was hauled to the plant by an electric hoist.

At the plant, the shale was ground in a dry-pan grinder of special construction. The ground shale dropped on to a belt conveyor, which delivered the material to another belt conveyor, and then to the brick machine. A stiff-mud machine with a 12-foot pug-mill combined with a 22-brick wire cutter was used to make bricks. In November 1921, an automatic soft-mud machine replaced the stiff-mud machine, which reduced the drying time for bricks from 80 hours to 30 hours. A cable carrier system was also installed at that time. In December 1922, an automatic cutter was installed. In September 1924, a Chambers side-cutter was added. The bricks were dried in a steam heated driers with heat from the auxiliary boilers. A continuous kiln and open kilns were used to burn the bricks. The continuous kiln had a 75-foot tall chimney at its center. A muffled kiln was used to fire the hollow building tiles. Crude oil was used as fuel until the mid-1920s, when it was switched to natural gas. A 200-horsepower Allis-Chalmers motor provided the power at the plant. The capacity of the plant in 1920 was 80,000 brick and 100 tons of hollow building tile per day. Brick production increased to 100,000 per day by 1924. The yard employed 90 to 125 workers. P. R. Houdek was the plant foreman up to 1906. Jerry J. Lagomarsino was plant foreman in 1913. J. J. Chamberlain became plant manager from 1917. Gus Larson was the superintendent in 1921.

Advertisement from Southwest Builder and Contractor, 1920.
Advertisement from Southwest Builder and Contractor, 1920.

Beginning in 1900, it appears that this yard produced end-cut bricks using the stiff-mud process. This was the only plant owned by the Los Angeles Brick Company in Los Angeles County that made red stiff-mud wire-cut bricks. All of its other plants made soft-mud bricks. Some of the bricks were stamped with the company's abbreviations "LABCO" and some with the logo of the Common Brick Manufacturer's Association, of which the company was a member. In November 1921, it was reported that the making of stiff-mud bricks was replaced by automatic soft-mud brick machines, so some soft-mud bricks were made here briefly. In December 1922, a new automatic cutter was installed, probably an end-cut machine which was making end-cut bricks again. In September 1924, a new Chambers brick machine for making side-cut bricks was installed and end-cut bricks were discontinued. These side-cut bricks have distinct moderate curved wire-cut grooves on its faces. The common bricks were known as "Colonial Blue Brick." Ruffled and paving bricks were also made about this time, indicating that the plant had installed a repress machine. In December 1922, a hollow tile machine was installed to make hollow building tile. In addition to bricks, this plant also had a brickbat crushing plant to produce red product for roofing purposes. It also produced molding sand for soft mud brick plants.

Advertisement from Southwest Builder and Contractor, 1922.
Advertisement from Southwest Builder and Contractor, 1922.

This yard supplied bricks for Los Angeles from 1900 to 1928. Wagons were used to haul the bricks to job sites or sales yards. The LABCO bricks were used mostly in the foundations, back, sides, and interior walls of buildings. A significant number of buildings and homes in Los Angeles was probably constructed of these bricks during the active years of Plant No. 1.

Advertisement from Architectural Digest, 1922.
Advertisement from Architectural Digest, 1922.

Encroaching neighborhoods and new developments in Chavez Ravine eventually forced the brickyard to close with increasing complaints of noise and smoke pollution. The Los Angeles Brick Company transferred its operations to other yards, including its new plant at Alberhill in Riverside County. For many years after its abandonment, the yard's 75-foot brick chimney, stripped of its kiln, stood alone on the property marking the site of the Los Angeles brickyard. Today, all evidence of the brickyard has been erased.

LABCo Bricks from Plant No. 1

Before I describe the bricks, I would like to mention that because the Los Angeles Brick Company owned many brickyards, studying the bricks made by this company has been most challenging because reports of the bricks used in many of the buildings in Los Angeles did not specify which of the five brickyards, all of which were operating simultaneously, supplied the bricks. Quantities of bricks from different yards were likely mixed when sent to large brick jobs or sales yards. The identification of the brickyards from which the different Los Angeles Brick Company bricks were manufactured was achieved by comparing with known brick samples that were found at the brickyard site and their mineral compositions, but there are no samples of brick from some of the yards. The lack of known bricks from the brickyards therefore prevent verification of brickyard origin. There were three brickyards in Chavez Ravine and two of them were mining similar material. The other two brickyards in the Boyle Heights district also mined similar materials, making it difficult to distinguish the plant origin. News of the type of machinery used also aided in distinguishing some of the bricks to their brickyard origins. However, four of the brickyards used the same type of soft-mud brick machine, so the processing marks in those bricks are all similar. The brick samples that I display under the various brickyards of this company are therefore preliminary and may change with further research and additional information.

LABCo End-Cut Brick

The LABCo end-cut common brick is dark orange-red and uniform in color. Form is good with straight dull edges and dull corners; the example shown is slightly warped. Surface is smooth with minor pits and visible clasts of yellow clay. Ends show a longitudinal velour texture with transverse short grooves made by the wire-cuts. Faces are smooth and may contain longitudinal grooves. The marked face displays a recessed, truncated and off-centered, company abbreviations of "L.A.B.CO." indicating a rolling type imprint was applied to the extruding clay bar. Centered above the abbreviations is the logo symbol of the Common Brick Manufacturer's Association that is 2 inches in diameter. The truncated name spans 4 3/4 inches, and stands 3/4 inch in height. The letters are 1/16 inch in thickness. The periods are square. Interior consists of 5 percent subrounded yellow clay, subangular white quartz, rounded black iron oxides, all 1/16 to 3/8 inch in diameter, in a porous fine, but lumpy clay body. This brick was made using the stiff-mud process. Length 8, width 4, height 2 1/4 inches.

View of the marked face of the LABCo end-cut brick showing the logo of the Common Brick Manufacturer's Association.
View of the marked face of the LABCo end-cut brick showing the logo of
the Common Brick Manufacturer's Association. Donated by David Garcia.

View of the side of the LABCo end-cut brick with slight warping.
View of the side of the LABCo end-cut brick with slight warping.

View of the unmarked face of the LABCo end-cut brick.
View of the unmarked face of the LABCo end-cut brick.

View of the side of the LABCo end-cut brick.
View of the end of the LABCo end-cut brick
showing velour texture made by the wire-cut.

View of the interior of the LABCo end-cut brick.
View of the interior of the LABCo end-cut brick.

LABCo Side-Cut Brick

This example of LABCo's side-cut common brick is unmarked. It is red and uniform in color. The form is excellent with straight sharp edges and sharp corners. The sides are smooth and display transverse grooves. The faces are smooth with pits and visible quartz clasts on the surface. Curved wire-cut short grooves, ranging from 30 to 40 degrees, are displayed on the cut faces. In the example shown, one of the faces display brush marks of low angle. Interior consists of 10 percent subrounded to subangular white quartz, black iron oxides, subrounded yellow clay, all 1/16 to 1/4 inch in diameter, in a porous fine clay body. This brick was made using the stiff-mud process. Length 8 1/4, width 4, height 2 3/8 inches.

View of the face of the LABCo side-cut brick.
View of the face of the LABCo side-cut brick.

View of the side of the LABCo side-cut brick.
View of the side of the LABCo side-cut brick.

View of the face of the LABCo side-cut brick displaying curved wire-cut marks.
View of the face of the LABCo side-cut brick displaying curved wire-cut marks.

View of the end of the LABCo side-cut brick.
View of the end of the LABCo side-cut brick.

View of the interior of the LABCo side-cut brick showing white quartz and black iron oxides in fine clay.
View of the interior of the LABCo side-cut brick showing
white quartz and black iron oxides in fine clay.

LABCo Paving Brick

The LABCo paving brick is brownish red to orange-red and uniform in color. The form is excellent with straight rounded edges except the intermediate length edge is sharp, and rounded corners. The surface is smooth and may display large black iron spots with blisters. Repressed lines are present along the top and bottom edges of the sides. Ends have a rounded rectangular cross-section. The faces display curved wire-cut grooves angled from 30 to 40 degrees. The marked face contains the company abbreviations in recessed block letters that span 5 1/4 inches and stand 1 1/8 inches in height. The letters are 1/8 inch in thickness and have beveled sides. Interior consists of 15 percent subangular white quartz, round to irregular shaped black iron oxides, some with blister holes, as much as 1/4 inch in diameter, in vitrified red clay body. This brick was made using the stiff-mud process and repressed. Length 8 1/2, width 4, height 2 1/2 inches.

View of the marked face of the LABCo paving brick.
View of the marked face of the LABCo paving brick. Donated by George L. Kennedy.

View of the side of the LABCo paving brick with top and bottom repressed lines and dark flashing.
View of the side of the LABCo paving brick with top and bottom repressed lines and dark flashing.

View of the unmarked face of the LABCo paving brick showing the curved wire-cut marks.
View of the unmarked face of the LABCo paving brick showing the curved wire-cut marks.

View of the side of the LABCo paving brick.
View of the end of the LABCo paving brick.

View of the interior of the LABCo paving brick showing white quartz and black iron oxides in vitrified clay.
View of the interior of the LABCo paving brick showing
white quartz and black iron oxides in vitrified clay.

View of the side of the LABCo paving brick showing dark flashing and stack indentations.
View of the side of the LABCo paving brick showing dark flashing and stack indentations.

View of the side of the LABCo paving brick showing part of a conveyor belt mark.
View of the side of the LABCo paving brick showing part of a conveyor belt mark.

View of the side of the LABCo paving brick showing conveyor belt marks.
View of the side of the LABCo paving brick showing conveyor belt marks.

References

Aubrey, Lewis E., The Structural and Industrial Materials of California, California Mining Bureau Bulletin 38, Sacramento, CA, 1906.

Architectural Digest, Los Angeles Brick Company advertisement, 1922, p. 64.

Boalich, E.S., Castello, W.O., Hugguenin, Emile, Logan, C.A., and Tucker, W. Burling, The Clay Industry In California, California State Mining Bureau Preliminary Report No. 7, 1920.

Brick, v. 12, no. 2, February 1900, p. 97.

Brick, v. 24, no. 5, May 1906, p. 260.

Brick and Clay Record, v. 50, no. 5, 1917, p. 459.

Brick Company Agrees To Minimize Blasting, Los Angeles Herald, August 22, 1908.

Clay Worker, v. 33, no. 2, February 1900, p. 184.

Dietrich, Waldemar Fenn, The Clay Resources and the Ceramic Industry of California, California State Mining Bureau Bulletin 99, 1928.

Double Output of Brick Plant, Los Angeles Times, November 27, 1921.

Driver Hurt In Race When Wagon Overturns, Los Angeles Herald, August 12, 1910.

Install Automatic Brick Machine, Brick and Clay Record, v. 60, no. 12, 1922, p. 937.

L. A. Brick Finds Oil Shale On Land, Brick and Clay Record, v. 64, no. 9, 1924, p. 669.

Los Angeles City Directory, 1900.

Los Angeles City Directory, 1913.

Los Angeles City Directory, 1924.

Los Angeles Herald, May 17, 1907.

L. S. Collins Visits Cleveland, Brick and Clay Record, v. 57, no. 5, 1920, p. 420.

May Revoke Permit For Blasting Inside of City, Los Angeles Herald, August 5, 1908.

Mayor Will Hear Blasted Dynamite, Los Angeles Herald, August 12, 1908.

Merrill, F. J. H., Los Angeles County, Orange County, and Riverside County, California State Mining Bureau 15th Report, pt. 4, December 1917.

Plans Building New Plant, Brick and Clay Record, v. 60, no. 2, 1922, p. 135.

Sanborn Map Company, Sanborn Map of Los Angeles, 1951.

Seeking To Settle Chavez Dynamiting, Los Angeles Herald, August 15, 1908.

Southwest Builder and Contractor, January 9, 1920, p. 18.

Southwest Builder and Contractor, November 23, 1922, p. 20.

Three New Incorporations, Los Angeles Herald, January 10, 1900.

Transfers, $1000 and Over, Los Angeles Herald, January 14, 1900.

Copyright 2016 Dan Mosier

Contact Dan Mosier at danmosier@earthlink.net.