California brick

Monterey Brick and Stone Company


In January 1905, the W. F. Barnes Commercial Company was scouting out sites for a possible sand-lime brick plant in the Monterey area. They represented the Schwarz System Brick Company of New York, which owned the patented process of fusing lime and silica sand under high pressure steam heat for the manufacture of a sand-lime brick that was said to be fireproof and weather proof. It was thought that the bricks could be made at a cost of $8 per thousand compared to $12 per thousand for similar clay brick. A sample of sand from Seaside was sent to be tested at one of the Schwarz System plants in Mobile, Alabama, where the first sand-lime brick in this country was made in 1901. The test bricks were reported to be of high quality. In March 1905, John G. Treanor of the W. F. Barnes Commercial Company met with landowner Dr. J. L. D. Roberts to negotiate a deal in building a brick plant on his property.

W.F. Barnes Commercial Co. ad

W. F. Barnes Commercial Company advertisement for the Schwarz System in San Francisco,
where Monterey sand-lime bricks were promoted. Architect and Engineer, 1907.

On March 11, 1905, Dr. J. L. D. Roberts sold 9 acres of dune sand to the company. This included Blocks 15 and 16 in the town of East Monterey (now Sand City) and all of the Reservation of Seaside Addition to the town of East Monterey (now part of Seaside). The Monterey Brick and Stone Company was incorporated with Dr. Roberts as president and Arthur G. Metz as secretary. The company set up an office on Alvarado Street in Monterey. W. F. Barnes Commercial Company set up an office at 2301 Scott Street in San Francisco to promote the Monterey sand-lime bricks.

Post card view of the Monterey Brick and Stone Company yard

Post card view of the Monterey Brick and Stone Company brickyard. Collection of Dan Mosier.

The location of the brickyard was revealed through the generous help of Dennis Copeland, Historian and Museums, Arts, and Archives Manager in Monterey, and Michael D. Luther and Robert W. Piwarzyk, coauthors of Lime Kiln Legacies. Blocks 15 and 16, mentioned above, were at the northwest corners of 4th and Spruce streets and 4th and Annita streets, respectively. These street names were changed to the present Catalina Street (4th Street), Ortiz Avenue (Spruce Street), and Elder Avenue (Annita Street). According to a 1905 city directory, the brickyard was located on the northwest corner of 4th (Catalina Street) and Annita (Elder Avenue), which is currently occupied by a modern business building.

From a post card of the yard shown above, it appears that the yard was equipped with a lime burner, a power plant, and a plant with conveyors and the necessary equipment for the Schwarz System, which included a lime pulverizing plant, lime slacking tanks, mixer, pugmill, drier, brick press, and hardening cylinders. The boiler house contained a locomotive boiler of 150-horsepower and 120-pound pressure, utilizing oil fuel, a donkey boiler, using wood fuel, a feed-water tank, and a heater. The boilers were fed by a duplex steam pump and an injector. The power house contained a single-cylinder steam-engine of 90-horsepower and 140 revolutions.

Sand of 92.5 percent silica, was mined from the adjacent dunes on the beach. Lime, which was from an unknown local source, was 92 to 95 percent CaO. The kiln for burning lime rock was fired by oil at 1000 degrees C. A Sturtevant crusher was used to crush and grind the burned lime. The slackened lime was mixed with sand and water and pressed into bricks using a five-mold Grath press, installed by the Illinois Supply and Construction Company of St. Louis. The mix was 7 percent lime and 93 percent sand.

The bricks were hardened in two hardening cylinders, each 50 feet long, and were subjected to steam pressure of 120 pounds per square inch for 8 hours. Unlike the German style, the hardening cylinders were without movable supports on their foundations. In the process, calcined lime was converted to hydrated lime. The lime kiln had a capacity of 70 barrels a day, 25 of which was used at the plant and the rest was sold.

After cooling, the bricks were ready to be shipped. The whole process to make sand-lime bricks from dune sand was achieved within 24 hours. Rail flat carts were used to transport the bricks from the plant to the loading platform, where the Southern Pacific Railroad was used to ship the bricks to job sites. A narrow-gauge spur track connecting the plant to the main line was 1,500 feet long. The plant started up in December 1905, producing about 20,000 bricks per day with about 50 workers. By 1908, the plant was operated by only 16 workers.

The bricks came in standard and special shapes. They were described as having durability, uniformity, sharp edges and corners, and an average crushing strength of 3,000 pounds per square inch. The bricks were naturally white, but also available in different unspecified colors. An advertisement of the brick made at the Sacramento plant showed a rectangular frog on the face, so the Monterey brick may have had a frog as well.

Monterey sand-lime bricks were quite popular when it hit the market. Because it was a relatively new product on the Pacific Coast, architects and contractors were interested in using it in their own projects, particularly where white bricks were needed. The bricks were used in several buildings on Alvarado Street in Monterey, the Carnegie library in Salinas, a Presbyterian Church in San Jose, and elsewhere. Most of these buildings have since been demolished making it difficult today to find whole examples of the Monterey brick. The Pullman car shops in Richmond, built in 1910, still stand and may possibly be an example of this company's sand-lime brick. It is not certain if the bricks in the Pullman car shops came from the Seaside or Sacramento plant, or both, as the construction coincided with the moving of the plant from Seaside to Sacramento and the Sacramento Sandstone Brick Company, in their advertisements, took credit for the Seaside products. Although I list the Pullman shops brick as a product of the Sacramento plant, some of the bricks may have come from the remaining stock at the Seaside plant. Further investigations will verify if this is true.

Salinas Carnegie Library faced with Monterey Brick and Stone Company sand-lime brick

Salinas Carnegie Library, built in 1908-1909, was faced with Monterey
Brick and Stone Company sand-lime brick. Brick and Clay Record, 1911.

By May 1909, orders started to wane. The cost of transporting the bricks by rail was costly, such that the company filed a complaint with the State Legislature over unreasonable rates with the Southern Pacific Railroad Company. The company decided to solve the high transportation cost by moving its plant to Sacramento, where it would be closer to a booming building market. The Seaside plant closed in June 1910 and dismantling of the plant began in August 1910, with the removal of machinery to the new plant being constructed in Sacramento. In 1916, Dr. Roberts sold his interest in the company to the Monterey Brick and Stone Corporation, which was eventually dissolved.

Today, Cabrillo Highway runs across the northern part of the property and the brickyard site has been developed over by modern businesses. An excursion to the brickyard site was made by Michael Luther, Robert Piwarzyk, Sandra Kelly, and myself in April 2013. All evidence of the brickyard has been erased. However, we were able to find tiny pieces of sand-lime brick on a vacant lot across the street from the brickyard site, and that is at this time the only example shown below.

Monterey Brick and Stone Company Brick

A 2-inch long sample was found near the brickyard site. It is an internal sample with no faces preserved. The grains are 90 percent white and orange-stained subrounded quartz, less than 1/16 inch in diameter. The orange-stained quartz constitutes about 10 percent of the total quartz. The quartz is coated with white lime, giving it almost an opaque finish. Brown iron oxide, most of which is seen only under the microscope, is about 5 percent. The grains are poorly welded and come apart easily, which makes the brick erode easily once exposed to the weather. No brick dimensions are available.

interior of the Monterey sand-lime brick sample

View of the interior of the Monterey Brick and Stone Company sand-lime brick sample.

Microscopic view of the interior of the Monterey sand-lime brick sample, 50x

Microscopic view of the interior of the Monterey Brick and Stone Company sand-lime brick
sample showing mostly quartz and some iron oxide, 50x (field of view 1/4 inch).


A Beautiful Face Brick that is a California Product, Architect and Engineer, May 1912, p. 134.

Appendix to the Journals of the Senate and Assembly of the Forty-First Session of the Legislature of the State of California, Volume 2, Sacramento, 1915, p. 407.

Aubrey, Lewis E., The Structural and Industrial Materials of California, California State Mining Bureau Bulletin 38, 1906, p. 169.

Brick, v. 30, no. 6, 1909, p. 301.

Brick, v. 33, no. 4, 1910, p. 182.

Brick, v. 39, no. 11, 1911, p. 428.

Horstmann, Ernest, The Monterey Sand-Lime Brick Plant, Rock Products, v. 7, no. 9, March 22 1908, p. 47.

Kelly, Sandra, personal communications, 2013.

Luther, Michael D., written and personal communications, 2013.

Model Sand Lime Brick Plant, Construction, v. 2, no. 1, November 1908, p. 78.

Howard, Donald, Seaside: Nusgonas to Noche Buena, v. 1, 2003, p. 120-122, sent by Dennis Copeland.

Monterey County Deeds, Del Rey Land Co. to Monterey Brick and Stone Co., January 19, 1907, Book 96, p. 184.

Monterey County Deeds, Monterey Brick and Stone Co. to Central Trust Co. of California, August 9, 1906, Book 93, p. 126.

Monterey County Deeds, Monterey Brick and Stone Co. to Silas W. Mack, March 4, 1908, Book 103, p. 60.

Monterey County Deeds, Roberts, Dr. J.L.D., to Monterey Brick and Stone Corp., December 29, 1916, Book 145, p. 353.

New Brick Factory At Seaside Opened, San Francisco Call, December 2, 1905.

New Sand Lime Brick Plant, Architect and Engineer, v. 5, no. 2, June 1906, p. 76.

Perry, Frank A., Piwarzyk, Robert W., Luther, Michael D., Orlando, Alverda, Molho, Allan, and Perry, Sierra L., Lime Kiln Legacies; The History of the Lime Industry in Santa Cruz County, The Museum of Art & History at the McPherson Center, Santa Cruz, CA, 2007.

Perry, T.F., Directory of Monterey, Pacific Grove, Seaside, etc., 1905-1906, p. 152.

Piwarzyk, Robert W., personal and written communications, 2013.

Tafel, Paul, Sand Cement- and Sand Lime-Brick, Municipal Journal and Engineer, v. 55, no. 4, October 1903, p. 145-147.

The Monterey Brick & Stone Co., Monterey, Cal., Brick, v. 25, no. 3, September 1906, p. 103.

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