California brick
CALIFORNIA BRICKS


Los Angeles Brick Company Plant No. 5, Chavez Ravine, Los Angeles

Los Angeles Brick Company Plant No. 6, 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 Plants No. 5 and 6, which were formerly owned by the Edward Simons and Thomas Joyce, respectively, in Chavez Ravine. Plants 5 and 6 were not the original designations of plant numbers, but used here only to help distinguish the three plants that the company owned in Chavez Ravine. Plant No. 4 was built at Alberhill in Riverside County. Plants 5 and 6 are combined here because the bricks from both of these yards used the same clay and the bricks are not easily distinguished from one another. There may be a difference in the bricks made at these two yards, but the lack of known bricks and details of operations preclude their distinction at this time. These yards were located on Chavez Ravine Road (now Stadium Way), near the present intersection with Lilac Terrace south of the Dodger Stadium, and adjacent to or near the Los Angeles Brick Company Plant No. 1. The large clay quarry, which supplied the clay, is still evident along the south side of Stadium Way.

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 these yards. 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 brick yards.

At the plants, 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. Potts soft-mud brick machines were used to make bricks. The bottom faces of each brick were imprinted with the company abbreviations "LABCo" or "LABCO." The bricks from these yards are distinctive in displaying large clasts of yellow clay. The bricks were dried in a steam heated driers with heat from the auxiliary boilers. A continuous kiln was used at each yard to burn the bricks. Crude oil was used as fuel. Steam powered the plant at these yards.

These yards supplied bricks for Los Angeles from 1900 to about 1909. 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 these yards.

Encroaching neighborhoods and new developments in Chavez Ravine eventually forced the brickyards to close with increasing complaints of noise and smoke pollution. Plants 5 and 6 were closed and consolidated with Plant No. 1 in Chavez Ravine. The Los Angeles Brick Company eventually transferred its operations to other yards, including its new plant at Alberhill in Riverside County. Today, all evidence of these brickyards has been erased.

LABCo Bricks from Plant No. 5 and 6

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 Common Bricks

The LABCo common brick is pale red and uniform in color. Form is good with straight sharp edges and dull corners. Surface is smooth with no sand coating, but clasts of yellow clay and shiny mica flakes may be visible. A thin irregular lip 1/8 inch thick is present along the top edges. Top face is rough and pitted with a weak longitudinal strike. Rounded yellow clay, as much as 3/4 inch in diameter, is visible on the face. The marked face displays the company abbreviations of "LABCo" in raised block letters that span 4 1/8 - 5 inches and stand 1 - 1 1/4 inches in height and are 1/8 inch in thickness. The lower case "o" stands 3/4 - 1 inch in height. One of the examples shown has part of the letters imprinted upside down. The letters are centered inside a rectangular frog 6 1/4 inches long, 1 3/4 - 2 inches wide, and 1/16 inch deep, with beveled sides. The left side of the frog has a double imprint. Interior consists of 10 percent subrounded yellow clay, subangular white quartz, rounded black iron oxides, all 1/16 to 1 inch in diameter, in a porous fine clay body. This brick was made using the soft-mud process. Length 8 1/8 - 8 3/8, width 3 7/8, height 2 3/8 inches.

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

View of the side of the LABCo common brick.
View of the side of the LABCo common brick with an irregular lip along the top.

View of the unmarked face of the LABCo end-cut brick.
View of the unmarked face of the LABCo commom brick with the distinctive yellow clay. White coating is mortar .

View of the end of the LABCo common brick.
View of the end of the LABCo common brick.

View of the marked face of the LABCo common brick showing a couple of upside down letters.
View of the marked face of the LABCo common brick showing a couple of upside down letters.

View of the side of the LABCo common brick.
View of the side of the LABCo common brick showing yellow clay clasts.

View of the unmarked face of the LABCo common brick with the distinctive yellow clay.
View of the unmarked face of the LABCo commom brick with the distinctive yellow clay. White coating is mortar .

View of the end of the LABCo common brick.
View of the end of the LABCo common brick.

View of the interior of the LABCo common brick showing yellow clay and tiny white quartz and black iron oxides.
View of the interior of the LABCo common brick showing
yellow clay and tiny white quartz and black iron oxides.

LABCO Common Brick

This example of LABCO common brick is slightly smaller in size and has a different style of markings. It is pale red and uniform in color. The form is good with slightly undulating sharp edges and dull corners. The sides are smooth with visible yellow clay and transverse stack indentations. A thin irregular lip 1/8 inch thick is present along the top edges. The top face is rough and pitted with visible yellow clay as much as 1/2 inch in diameter. The top face also displays transverse stack indentations and a weak longitudinal srike. The marked face displays the company abbreviations of "LABCO" in large raised squarish block letters that span 5 1/4 inches and stand 2 1/4 inches in height and are 1/8 inch in thickness. The letter "A" has a low cross bar. The letters are centered inside a rectangular frog 6 1/4 inches long, 2 inches wide, and 1/8 inch deep, with rounded sides. Interior consists of 10 percent rounded yellow clay, subangular white quartz, black iron oxides, all 1/16 to 1/2 inch in diameter, in a porous fine clay body. This brick was made using the soft-mud process. Length 8, width 3 3/4, height 2 1/4 inches.

View of the marked face of the LABCO common brick.
View of the marked face of the LABCO common brick. White coating is mortar. Donated by George L. Kennedy.

View of the side of the LABCO common brick.
View of the side of the LABCO common brick.

View of the unmarked face of the LABCO common brick.
View of the unmarked face of the LABCO commom brick with the distinctive yellow clay. White coating is mortar .

View of the end of the LABCO common brick.
View of the end of the LABCO common brick.

View of the interior of the LABCO common brick showing yellow clay, white quartz, and white coating of mortar.
View of the interior of the LABCO common brick showing
yellow clay, white quartz, and white coating of mortar.

References

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

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.

Los Angeles City Directory, 1900.

Los Angeles City Directory, 1924.

Los Angeles Herald, May 17, 1907.

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.

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

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

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.