California brick
CALIFORNIA BRICKS


Park Brick Yard Company

History


In 1884, Bradbury D. Day, a carpenter from Maine, and John W. Read, a British brickmaker, arrived in San Diego to establish a brick plant. The two partners located a clay deposit suitable for making brick near 23rd and K streets in San Diego. They leased eight lots to mine the clay. In the first firing, Day and Read made 125,000 brick. Day used the bricks in his own construction jobs, but some of the bricks were sold to other building contractors. Read had planned to fire over one million bricks when operations came to a halt. The property owner was demanding that Day and Read purchase the property they were leasing for their brick operation. This was out of the question for the brickmakers, so they opted to search for a new clay deposit.

Day and Read found their clay deposit in the entrance to Cabrillo Canyon, which was at the head of 11th Street, within the southwestern corner of Balboa Park. Day and Read negotiated with the Board of Trustees of the City of San Diego to lease the land for a new brickyard. The Board of Trustees allowed Day and Read to mine clay for bricks in the park provided that they pay the city 15 cents per one thousand bricks. Other terms included the monitoring of all grading operations in the park and the filling with waste rock and crushed rejects in certain wash outs in the ravine.

On June 1, 1885, Day and Read resumed manufacturing bricks at their new location. By July, they had fired a kiln of 140,000 bricks in five days. The new yard was called the Park Brickyard. By October, another 200,000 brick had been fired. In December, they made over 250,000 bricks.

In 1886, Read purchased controlling interest in the brick company from Day and ramped up production of bricks into the millions. This made the Park Brickyard among the largest brick manufacturers in San Diego. Park Brickyard bricks were used in many large buildings in San Diego, including the Grand and Brooklyn hotels, and several residences, including the Villa Montezuma at 1925 K Street and the McCoy House in Old Town.

No description of the brickmaking process for the Park Brickyard has been found. But the surviving bricks reveal that the soft-mud process was used. The raw clay was mixed with water in a pugmill. The clay was then thrown into wooden molds to form sand-struck bricks. The bottom of each mold contained a rectangular plate with the letters "PBY Co" so that each brick would be marked with recessed initials of the brick company. The bricks were then laid out to dry in the sun before they were fired in field kilns. Coal was probably used as the fuel in the kilns.

By late 1888, the building boom in San Diego had slowed and the demand for bricks had declined with it. The Park Brickyard as a result was permanently closed. The two brickyard sites of the Park Brick Yard Company have been completely erased by development over the years.

Park Brick Yard Brick

Common brick is light orange to orange-red, but each brick is mostly uniform in color. The surfaces are sand struck. Some of the sand has a lot of fine mica (muscovite) flakes, which sparkles in the sunlight. On the surface are minor subrounded white quartz, mostly less than 1/4 inch across and reddish volcanic porphyry rock up to 1 inch across.The edges are irregular and dull. The corners are dull or broken. The sides and ends are uneven with irregular lip, up to 1/4 inch thick, around the top edges. The sides contain pits, cracks, transverse grooves, and longitudinal striations, like fine brush marks. The top face is heavily pitted. The bottom face contains the recessed letters "PBY Co" spanning 7 1/2 inches and 1 5/8 inches high. The interior is a porous clay body with quartz and reddish volcanic rock. This brick was made using the soft-mud process. Length 8 1/4 - 8 1/2, width 3 7/8 - 4, height 2 1/4 inches.

Park Brick Yard brick
View of the marked face of the Park Brick Yard brick. Photo courtesy of George L. Kennedy.

Park Brick Yard brick
View of the side of the Park Brick Yard brick in the
Horton Grand Hotel, showing various shades and quality.


Park Brick Yard brick
View of the side of the Park Brick Yard brick, showing the fine brush marks.


References

Bevil, Alexander D., The Park Brick Yard Company, The Journal of San Diego History, Winter 1996, v. 42, no. 1.

Bevil, Alexander D., written communications, 2010.

Copyright 2007 Dan Mosier

Contact Dan Mosier at danmosier@earthlink.net.