CALIFORNIA BRICKS


Pureclay Brick and Tile Company

History


About 1905, T. P. Brown opened a brick plant on the banks of the Russian River at Hilton, where a 70-foot bank of clay was found on 46 acres of land. In 1906, the yard was operated by the Hilton Brick Company, which sold bricks locally. By 1909, the Pureclay Brick and Tile Company was formed to operate the plant. They set up a distributing office at 103 Main Street in San Francisco. O. J. Crossfield was president, E. Aigeltinger was vice-president, and F. Wagner was the general manager. C. W. Randall, formerly with Bonner & Marshall Company, Chicago, Illinois, was in charge of the sales and distributing yard at North Point and Taylor streets in San Francisco.

The large plant at Hilton was managed by E. T. Maples, formerly with the California Pottery in Antioch, California. The plant had a 20-compartment continuous-burning kiln, with a capacity of 30,000 brick per day. In 1909, $30,000 was spent by the company to upgrade the plant, which manufactured common and pressed bricks. The pressed brick was not machine-pressed, but said to be as good as high quality machine-pressed face brick. A branch of the Northwestern Pacific railroad was used to ship the bricks to distant markets.

Pureclay bricks were used to face the U. S. Post Office at Santa Rosa, the side walls of the Masonic Temple at Sonoma, and many other buildings. The plant operated until 1912, when it was closed. The company was listed as late as 1913 with J. H. Stack as the manager at the San Francisco office. In 1916, the brick property was sold to the Thompson Brick Company.


Pureclay Brick

Common brick is light orange, orange-red, dark orange, or brown, mostly uniform in color. Edges are straight and nearly sharp. Corners are dull. Short edges are rounded. Surface is smooth and often with clumps of clay attached. Sides show dark flashing, faint stack indentations, pits, minor cracks, and transverse grooves. Ends show a conspicuous single longitudinal groove near one of the edges on many bricks. Faces show a velour texture angled slightly in the longitudinal direction with wire-cut grooves at relatively higher angles normal to the velour texture. Visible clasts seen on the surface are subangular to angular white quartz up to 1/4 inch across. Interior contains in addition to the quartz, less than 10 percent round red chert and cream feldspar, less than 1/4 inch in diameter, in a porous orange-red sandy clay body. This brick was made by the stiff-mud process. Length 8, width 3 5/8, height 2 3/8 inches.

View of the sides of the Pureclay common brick in the side wall of the Masonic Temple, Sonoma.
View of the sides of the Pureclay common brick in the side wall of the Masonic Temple, Sonoma.

View of the side of the Pureclay common brick showing clumps of attached clay on the surface.
View of the side of the Pureclay common brick showing clumps of attached clay on the surface.

View of the side of the Pureclay common brick showing dark flashing in the center.
View of the side of the Pureclay common brick showing dark flashing in the center.

View of the end of the Pureclay common brick showing a longitudinal groove across below the top edge.
View of the end of the Pureclay common brick showing
a longitudinal groove immediately below the top edge.

View of part of the face of the Pureclay common brick showing velour texture.
View of part of the face of the Pureclay common brick showing velour texture.

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


References

Architect and Engineer, August 1909.

Architect and Engineer, December 1909.

Aubrey, Lewis E. The Structural and Industrial Materials of California. California State Mining Bureau Bulletin 38, 1906, p. 258.

Boalich, E.S., Castello, W.O., Huguenin, Emile, Logan, C.A., and Tucker, W.B., The Clay Industry In California. California State Mining Bureau Preliminary Report 7, 1920, p. 99.

San Francisco City Directories, 1909-1913.

Sonoma Index Tribune, December 1, 1906.

Copyright 2006 Dan Mosier

Contact Dan Mosier at danmosier@earthlink.net.