California brick
CALIFORNIA BRICKS


Remillard Brick Company, Pleasanton Yard

History

In 1861, three brothers from Saint-Valentin, near Montreal, Canada, came to Oakland, Alameda County, California, to establish a brickyard. They were Pierre (Peter) Nicolas, Hilaire, and Edouard (Edward) Remillard. Their firm was named Remillard and Brothers, and they opened an office at Clay and 2nd streets, Oakland, and a brick plant in nearby Brooklyn. In 1879, the firm incorporated to become the Remillard Brick Company. Peter N. Remillard was president, Philip Hilaire Remillard was vice-president, and P.H. Lamoureux was secretary.

After establishing brick plants at Greenbrae, San Pablo, and Hayward, the Remillard Brick Company purchased the
Black and Cory brick works, Pleasanton, in March 1882. This property was located south of Stanley Blvd. at California Avenue, 1.5 miles east of Pleasanton, and extended eastward near the present water slide inside the Shadow Cliffs Regional Park. The original property contained 30 acres of clay deposit and field kilns. The clay was sand loam, 25 feet thick, located a quarter mile from the plant on the north bank of Arroyo del Valle. Dragline scraper was used in the clay pit. Common brick made here was shipped to Oakland by the Southern Pacific Railroad, which built a spur line to the brick plant at Remillard. Three new kilns were built in 1882, and 65 men were employed.

Map of the Remillard Pleasanton brickyard
Map showing the properties of the Remillard Brick Company at their Pleasanton yard. The County Road at the
top is Stanley Blvd. Arroyo Del Valle is just south of the southern boundary line of the Remillard property.
Stanley Business Park currently sits on the 60 acres of land on the left. Alameda County Land Map Office, no date.

In 1890, the company purchased additional acres of land from landowner Bernal adjacent to their works, and added two 16-compartment Hoffman kilns, each with a large smokestack, 130 feet tall, similar to the preserved structures seen today at their Greenbrae yard. These Hoffman kilns were housed inside a large wooden building, 380 feet in length, that served as driers. The kilns were 150 feet in length, about 60 feet wide, and 20 feet high, containing 20 compartments, and fueled by coal. Each kiln had a capacity of firing 8 million bricks per year. Each Hoffman kiln was supplied by bricks molded initially in two clay mixing mills behind the kilns.

Illustration of the Remillard Pleasanton brickyard
Remillard's new brick plant at Pleasanton, as depicted in an 1888 sketch before it
was built, facing south. Features are labeled by Dan Mosier. Oakland Enquirer, 1888.

The mill contained a receiving hopper, elevator, screens, disintegrator, pugmill, and brick molding room. These mills were situated along a raised narrow-gauge railroad that transported clay from the pit to the mills on train powered by electricity. A powerhouse containing a 120-horsepower engine fueled by oil provided the power to run all of the machinery. The bricks were made using six-brick molds. The bricks were dried either in the drier racks in the field or inside the drying sheds. Near the creek was situated a mess house, office, and 25 cabins to board the workers. They increased the employees to 130 for six months per year. This plant became Remillard's largest manufacturer of bricks, producing 17 million per year by 1898.

In 1926, in modernizing the operations, the four clay mills were replaced by a single mill built next to the powerhouse. This mill doubled the daily output from 23,000 to 46,000 bricks. The clay pit doubled in size as it expanded eastward towards the kiln property.

Most of the red common brick used in buildings in Alameda County from 1881 to 1935 came from the Pleasanton plant. Local examples of this brick can be seen in downtown Pleasanton at the Johnston and Arendt buildings on Main Street and the Pleasanton Firehouse No. 1 on Railroad Avenue in Pleasanton. In June 1935, a fire destroyed the brick plant and it was permanently closed. Remillard transfered the Pleasanton operation to San Jose, where they had another brick yard. The plant, kilns, and smokestacks were razed in 1938. The Pleasanton property was leased to G and M Gravel Company and perhaps others to excavate the gravel, which has completely altered the surface of the brickyard today. Pacific Gas and Electric placed a substation on part of the clay pit.

Remillard Pleasanton brickyard
Remillard brick plant on Stanley Blvd., Pleasanton, as it
looked in 1906, facing northeast. Oakland Tribune, 1906.



Remillard Brick

Common brick is dark red to red-brown, with visible white and gray clasts on the surface, which can get up to an inch or more, and abundant holes and pits. White clasts are angular rhyolite fragments and feldspar, gray clasts are quartz and metamorphic rock fragments. Yellow-brown flashing is visible on some surfaces. Some overburns are present. Rough, gritty surface texture, coated with fine sand grains of subangular white quartz, some stained orange, black iron oxide, and magnetite. edges are irregular and rounded. Corners are dull or broken. Lip is present on the top edges of some bricks. Occasional transverse grooves on sides. Bottom face has a flat surface which looks similar in texture to the sides. Top face shows flat surface with holes and pit. The interior is composed of 2 percent subrounded, iron-stained, and white massive quartz, greenish-gray sandstone, cream feldspathoid, subangular white rhyolite, subrounded, often flattened yellow clay, and subangular metamorphic rocks, all less than 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 1/4 - 8 1/2, width 4 1/8, height 2 1/2 inches.

Johnston Building at Pleasanton
Johnston Building at 465 Main St., Pleasanton, was built in 1896
of Remillard brick from their Pleasanton yard.

Remillard brick in the Johnston Building at Pleasanton
Remillard bricks on the wall of the Johnston Building
Note the crude style of Remillard bricks made in 1896.


Firehouse No. 1 at Pleasanton
Firehouse No. 1 in Pleasanton made of Remillard bricks.

Remillard brick in the Firehouse No. 1 at Pleasanton
Remillard bricks on the wall of Pleasanton Firehouse No. 1,
displaying yellow flashing. Improved quality of Remillard brick
made in 1928.

View of the interior clay body of the Remillard common brick.
View of the interior clay body of the Remillard common brick.


View of the interior clay body of the Remillard common brick.
View of the interior clay body of the Remillard common brick.

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


References


Alameda County Gazette, 1881-1882.

Alameda County Land Map Office, Remillard properties, no date. Hayward, California.

Aubrey, Lewis E., The Structural and Industrial Materials of California, California Mining Bureau Bulletin 38, 1906, p. 242.

Crawford, J.J., Alameda County, California State Mining Bureau 12th Annual Report of the State Mineralogist, 1894, p. 381.

Crawford, J.J., Structural Materials, California State Mining Bureau 13th Report of the State Mineralogist, 1896, p. 612-641.
Doss, Ann, Pleasanton, Amador-Livermore Valley Historical Society, no date.

Engineering and Mining Journal, November 16, 1889, p. 442-443.

Guidici, John J., The Remillards and Their Brick Company, Oakland History, Laney College, 1980.

Imboden, Susan, personal and written communications, 2013.

Livemore Echo, 1890-1910.

Livermore Herald, 1882, 1926, 1934-1936, 1938.

Lamoureux, Michel, written communication, 2017.

Mosier, Dan L., History of Brickmaking in the Livermore Valley, Livermore Heritage Guild Newsletter, v. 10, no. 5, February 1983.

Oakland Enquirer, Special Edition, 1888.

Oakland Tribune, 1881-1906

Oakland Tribune, Alameda County, The Oakland Tribune, Oakland, 1898.

Sanborn Map Company, Pleasanton, Cal., 1907.

Southern Pacific Company, Plan of Radum-Remillard, Alameda County, Cal., March 1026.

Thompson and West, Historical Atlas of Alameda County, California, Oakland, CA, 1878.

Township Register, 1928.

Watts, William L., Alameda County, California State Mining Bureau 11th Report of the State Mineralogist, 1893, p. 121-138.

Wood, M.W., History of Alameda County, California, Oakland, 1883.

Copyright 2004 Dan Mosier

Contact Dan Mosier at danmosier@earthlink.net.