California brick

George D. Nagle


George D. Nagle

George D. Nagle was one of San Francisco's early brickmakers. Nagle was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in 1821. He came to California in 1849 and worked as a contractor in Sacramento. By 1853, Nagle had relocated to San Francisco to set up his contracting business. That year, Nagle had a brickyard on the hill south of Fort Point on Presidio grounds when he was contracted to supply bricks for Fort Point.

He built many brick buildings in the city, including the warehouse at Rincon Dock (1859), Grace Cathedral (1860), Newhall & Company building (1860), and a military drill-room (1862). In 1861, he opened a brickyard at Brannan and Second streets in San Francisco. Since that time he operated at four different locations in the city.

In 1865, Nagle employed 100 prisoners to manufacture his bricks at the San Quentin State Prison brickyard. The laborers were paid 35 cents per day. That year, he and W. B. Carr were awarded the contract to construct two three-story brick cell buildings at San Quentin Prison. The city directories indicate that he closed his brickyard in 1872. Though he continued to do brick work on many important buildings in the city, he may have purchased his bricks from other brickmakers after 1872.

Nagle brick ad
From the San Francisco Directory 1868.

Nagle made red common and pressed bricks. He probably used wooden molds and a brick-press machine, and the bricks were fired in field kilns. He once made a $1,000 bet with another builder that he could lay 1,000 bricks per hour! Outstanding examples of his bricks can be seen at Fort Point, erected 1853-1856. Pressed bricks were used in the fort construction, and it was said that each brick bore his name as "G. D. NAGLE." He also had an abbreviated version "G.D.N." put on his earlier bricks made in Sacramento.

In 1876, Nagle declared bankruptcy after the building boom went sour in the early 1870s. In 1877, he landed a contract for building the new San Francisco City Hall. Among the other projects that Nagle had worked on include the Central Pacific Railway in Sacramento, the Stockton & Copperopolis Railroad in Stockton, and the San Francisco & Alameda Railroad, Nevada Block, Crystal Palace, Pioneer Hall, Flood Mansion, Brittan & Rey, and Hibernia Bank in San Francisco.

George D. Nagle died on April 30, 1891, at the age of 71 years at his home at 2031 Steiner Street in San Francisco. He was survived by two sons, a daughter, and two grandchildren.

Fort Point at San Francisco
Fort Point, San Francisco, made of Nagle bricks.

Nagle Brick

Common brick was pale red to red, with subangular to subrounded black iron, up to 1/4 inch across, visible on the surface. Interiors shows about 10 percent black iron and a few round white quartz pebbles up to 1/2 inch across. Gritty, rough surface texture, some display holes ranging up to 1/2-inch in diameter. Straight to irregular edges and sharp to rounded corners. Lip up to 1/8 inch thick around the top edge. Longitudinal striations on the sides. Some sides display stack indents, as many as three. On the bottom face are letters "G. D. NAGLE" in slightly raised block letters with prominent borders around each letter. Top face is flat with some pits and shows no strike marks. This brick was made using the hand-molded, soft-mud, sand-struck brick. Arch bricks were also made. Length 7 7/8 - 8 1/2, width 3 7/8 - 4 1/8, height 2 1/2 inches.

Nagle brick
Nagle brick with the maker's name on the bottom face.

Nagle brick
Nagle brick on the exterior wall of Fort Point. Note the black iron specks on the surface.

Nagle brick
Nagle brick on the exterior wall of Fort Point.

Nagle brick interior
Nagle brick in the interior of Fort Point showing a brighter red color.


Daily Alta California, April 7, 1876.

Daily Alta California, April 10, 1860.

Daily Alta California, August 14, 1863.

Daily Alta California, August 22, 1884.

Daily Alta California, August 29, 1860.

Daily Alta California, December 1, 1858.

Daily Alta California, February 13, 1886.

Daily Alta California, January 4, 1866.

Daily Alta California, June 2, 1877.

Daily Alta California, June 13, 1863.

Daily Alta California, July 12, 1890.

Daily Alta California, July 29, 1889.

Daily Alta California, March 17, 1865.

Daily Alta California, May 1, 1891.

Daily Alta California, November 9, 1886.

Daily Alta California, October 18, 1862.

Daily Alta California, September 14, 1853.

Garcia, David, written communication, 2010.

Hawkins, Charles S., Fort Point History, Fort Point National Historic Site, San Francisco, CA, 1977.

Sacramento Daily Union, December 29, 1860.

Sacramento Daily Union, May 15, 1858.

San Francisco City Directories, 1861-1872.

Copyright 2004 Dan Mosier

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