Petit and Queen, Sutterville
Two pioneer builders and contractors arrived in Sacramento, California. They were Alexander P. Petit and his wife,
on October 8, 1849, and James Queen, as a member of the Stevenson Regiment, on April 4, 1847. Both were natives of
Pennsylvania; Petit was born in Chester County in 1819, and Queen in 1817. Both men were active members in
various community organizations and, in 1850, held councilmen positions in Sacramento.
From the Sacramento Transcript, April 12, 1850.
Petit was a self-taught architect who designed and built many prominent buildings
throughout Northern California, including the courthouse (1850), city hall (1852), Pacific Theatre (1850),
Overton House (1852), and McNulty's Concert Hall (1854) in Sacramento, American Theatre (1854)
and Edwin Forrest Theater (1855) in San Francisco, the Sutter County Courthouse (1858) in Yuba City, the
State Buildings (1851) in Vallejo, the Grand Hotel (1874) in Santa Rosa, and the Lake County courthouse (1871)
In 1850, Petit and Queen formed a partnership in the construction business. They had their
office at 65 3rd Street in Sacramento. Like many of the early builders at that time, they had
manufactured their own bricks for their brick-building projects. They found good brickmaking material in
the southeastern part of Sutterville, south of Sacramento. The Petit and Queen brickyard was also known as
the "South Sacramento Brick Yard."
At first they probably made sand-molded brick in wooden molds and fired
the bricks in field kilns. These earlier bricks were used in the Pacific Theatre, Overton House, the Sacramento
Courthouse, and the Sacramento City Hall. None of these buildings survived, so I was not able verify the
character of their early brick. By February 1853, they had acquired three brickmaking machines
that were capable of producing 50,000 bricks per day. These sand-molded bricks were made by using
the soft-mud process and pressed. Two types of brick were made, common and face brick. These sold for
$8 per thousand. An advertisement in 1853, asked for six boys ages 14 to 15 years of age for employment
at the brickyard.
From the Sacramento Daily Union, January 18, 1853.
In 1853, Petit and Queen supplied the brick for ten brick buildings erected in the new town of Sutterville.
Among them was the Sutterville Brewery, which stood on Sutterville Road, just west of Land Park Road, until 1952,
when it was demolished. This was the last of the original buildings in Sutterville to be torn down. A small
historic plaque marks the site of the Sutterville Brewery building. Petit and Queen bricks were used in
many buildings in downtown Sacramento, but none of these have survived.
From the Sacramento Daily Union, April 7, 1853.
It is not know exactly how long the Petit and Queen brickyard was in operation. The last advertisement published
in the newspapers for the brickyard was June 21, 1853. But at least two additional brick buildings were
erected by Petit and Queen in Sacramento in 1854. Therefore, it was probably in 1854 that the last bricks
were made at the brickyard. Petit and Queen dissolved their partnership about that time. James Queen eventually
left the construction business and ran for local and state political offices. He moved to San Francisco about
1865 and died in the Napa Insane Asylum in December 1879.
About 1855, Petit left Sacramento for building projects in other cities, such as San Francisco. It is doubtful
that he used bricks from his Sutterville brickyard for these projects, because there were no reports of activity from
the Petit and Queen brickyard after 1853. Petit most likely purchased bricks from other brickmakers in the cities
where he had building projects. Although, it is possible that he could have made his own bricks on site provided
good brickmaking material was available.
In 1879, Petit left California for Phoenix, Arizona, where he built the first two-story brick building, the Irvine
Building. In 1880, he moved to Tucson and later Tombstone. By 1885, he had returned to Phoenix to build the
Porter Building (1885), the Monihon Building (1887), the Totten Block (1889), the Wharton Building (1893), and
some houses, among which was the elegant Rosson House (1895), which was his last job.
Petit's wife, Mrs. C. L. Petit, died in 1891, and Petit died on March 28, 1895. There are two buildings
built by Petit that remain standing - the Lake County Courthouse in Lakeport, California, and
the Rosson House in Phoenix, Arizona. For this brickyard study, it is fortunate that some remnants of Petit and Queen's
original bricks were found at the old town site of Sutterville, and these are described next.
Petit and Queen Brick
Common brick is orange to dark orange-red, mostly uniform in color. Surfaces are coated with sand containing
fine, clear, sparkling quartz crystals. Form is irregular with dull edges and corners. Top face is pitted with
faint longitudinal strike marks. No lip was seen on any of the samples. Bottom face is smooth and flat. Sides
show faint transverse striations, minor pits, gouges, and cracks. Interior clay body is grainy with about 10 percent
pores up to 1/8 inch across, 5-10 percent yellow or cream subrounded granitic rocks up to 1/4 inch across, which
are diagnostic for this brick, and 3 percent black iron grains up to 1/16 inch across. No brand marks were seen
on any of the samples available. This brick was made in 1853 using the sand-molded, soft-mud, brick molding machine.
Length 8 1/2, width 4, height 2 - 2 3/8 inches.
View of the end side of the Petit and Queen brick bat.
View of the top face of the Petit and Queen brick bat showing the faint longitudinal strike marks.
View of the bottom face of the Petit and Queen brick bat.
View of the interior clay body of the Petit and Queen brick bat.
Note the cream to yellowish colored granitic rocks.
Federal Census Records, 1880.
Copyright © 2010 Dan Mosier
Federal Census Mortality Schedules, 1880.
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Sacramento Daily Union, Boys Wanted, April 7, 1853.
Sacramento Daily Union, Brick advertisement, January 18, 1853.
Sacramento Daily Union, Court House, June 21, 1850.
Sacramento Daily Union, Edwin Forrest Theater, October 8, 1855.
Sacramento Daily Union, First Regiment of New York Volunteers, April 26, 1871.
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Sacramento Daily Union, July 24, 1854.
Sacramento Daily Union, McNulty's New Concert Hall, April 22, 1854.
Sacramento Daily Union, New City Hall and Prison, October 19, 1852.
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Sacramento Daily Union, September 26, 1851.
Sacramento Daily Union, Sutter County Court House, January 15, 1858.
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Sacramento Daily Union, The Grand Hotel, October 10, 1874.
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http://www.harebreynskyms.com/suttervillebrewery.html (accessed 2010).
Wright, George F., editor, History of Sacramento County, California,
Thompson and West, Oakland, California, 1880.