California brick
CALIFORNIA BRICKS


Petersen Brick Company, Mountain View Yard

History

In April 1892, Theodore W. Petersen of the Petersen Brick Company, San Jose, purchased the Whortenby farm of 170 acres, east of Mountain View, to manufacture bricks. He organized the San Francisco and Mountain View Brick and Transportation Company. He had plans to build a brick kiln by October and hire 100 to 150 men. A wagon road was established from the Mountain View railroad depot to the waterfront at Rengenstorff Landing, where Petersen was to ship out bricks. But this early venture was never realized. The property was sold in October 1892 to John Center for $27,399.68.

In September 1899, Petersen leased 10 acres of land on the northeast corner of Whisman Road and the Southern Pacific Railroad in Mountain View. Here he set up a brick plant to make 800,000 bricks. 50 to 60 men were employed at the brickyard, which was known as the Mountain View branch of the Petersen Brick Company in San Jose. A tall smokestack made of brick was erected. Little is known about this operation, as no description of the plant could be found. Clay was mined from a pit on the south side of Whisman Road, which today is covered with residential homes. Evidently, the plant was closed by June 1900 when the owner of part of the brickyard property died and the property was sold. The plant was razed sometime between 1906 and 1930. The original smokestack collapsed during the 1906 earthquake, but it was rebuilt later by another party attempting to reopen the old brick plant. The plant site today shows little evidence of the operation save for the remaining bricks to be found in the ground. Petersen was born about 1835 in Holstein, Germany, and he came to California in 1860. He died on March 10, 1902, in San Francisco.

Petersen Brick

Common Brick

Common brick is light brownish red, mostly uniform in color. Surface is coated with sand composed of subrounded to subangular white and orange-stained quartz, yellow chert, and black iron oxide. Visible clasts seen on the surface are well-rounded white and red pebbles of sandstone, subangular red and white chert, and subangular white quartz. The top face is rough and pitted. Irregular thin lip is displayed around the top edges. Transverse striations and stack indentions may be present on the sides. The edges are straight and dull. Corners are dull. Interior consists of 15 percent well-rounded white and red pebbles of sandstone, subangular red and white chert, rounded white clay, subrounded granite, subrounded diorite, and subangular white quartz, all up to 3/4 inch in diameter, in a porous, orange-red, sandy clay body. This brick was made using the hand-molded, sand struck, soft mud process. Length 8, width 3 7/8, height 2 3/8 inches.

Petersen brick
View of the bottom face of the Petersen common brick.

Petersen brick
View of the side of the Petersen common brick.


Petersen brick
View of the end of the Petersen common brick.


Petersen brick
View of the top face of the Petersen common brick.


Petersen brick interior
View of the interior of the Petersen common brick.


Microscopic view of the interior clay body of the Petersen common brick (50x, field 
of view is 1/4 inch).
Microscopic view of the interior clay body of the Petersen
common brick (50x, field of view is 1/4 inch).


Stock Brick

Stock brick is red, uniform in color and of better quality than the common brick. The bottom, sides, and ends of the brick are sanded with the same sand described previously. The top face is rough and pitted. Thin lip is present along the top edges. The interior contains 15 percent well-rounded white and red pebbles of sandstone, subangular red and white chert, subrounded white clay, subrounded granite, and subangular white quartz, all up to 3/4 inch in diameter, in a porous, red, sandy clay body. This brick was made using the hand-molded, sand struck, soft mud process. Length 8, width 3 7/8, height 2 3/8 inches.

Petersen stock brick bat
View of the top face of the Petersen stock brick bat.

Petersen stock brick bat
View of the side of the Petersen stock brick bat.


Petersen stock brick bat
View of the end of the Petersen stock brick bat.


Petersen stock brick bat interior
View of the interior of the Petersen stock brick bat.


References

Baumgartner, Godfrey, Jr., History of Mountain View and Sugar Beets, unpublished article, no date.

Brick and Clay Record, April 1902, p. 183.

Brick and Clay Record, September 1899, p. 222.

Kinchen, Barbara, Index card file, Mountain View Library.

Mountain View Register-Leader, 1892.

Mountain View Register-Leader, November 14, 1930.

San Jose Mercury News, 1893.

San Jose Mercury News, 1900-1902.

Santa Clara County Deed Book 49, 3 Oct. 1892, p. 435-439.

Santa Clara County Will Book K, Serafino J. Mattos, 5 June 1900, p. 207-209.

Copyright 2005 Dan Mosier

Contact Dan Mosier at danmosier@earthlink.net.