California brick
CALIFORNIA BRICKS


Remillard and Brothers, Oakland and Brooklyn Yards

History

Peter N. Remillard
In 1861, three brothers from Montreal, Canada, established a new brickyard in Oakland, Alameda County, California. They were Peter N. (shown on the left), Hilaire, and Edward Remillard. Their firm was called "Remillard and Brothers." The first brickyard was located on the south shore of Lake Merritt at 14th Street and 1st Avenue in what was known as Brooklyn, now part of Oakland. This may have been the earlier brickyard of Jim Minor. Later the Remillards built their kilns on the northeast corner of Webster Street and Strode Street (now 18th Street and 5th Avenue, respectively). The yard employed 15 to 20 workers, who were mostly Canadians.

Map of Remillard Brooklyn brickyard
Remillard first worked the brickyard on Bridge Street (now 1st Street) by
Lake Merritt (shown as "Estuary of San Antonio Creek"). From Dore, 1868.


Site of Remillard Brooklyn brickyard
Site of first brickyard worked by Remillard, where these
buildings stand on the south shore of Lake Merritt, Oakland.

The company office was originally located in the Wilcox Block at the corner of Broadway and 9th Streets in Oakland. In 1879, the firm incorporated to become the Remillard Brick Company. Peter N. Remillard was president, Phillip Hilaire Remillard was vice-president, and P.H. Lamoreaux was secretary. They opened an office and sales yard at Clay and 2nd Streets in Oakland.

From 1861 to 1872, Remillard's Brooklyn yard produced 11 million bricks. The clay was probably hauled in wagons from the shores of Lake Merritt to the kilns on Webster Street. The bricks were formed using wooden molds. After being air-dried, the bricks were fired in field kilns using wood as fuel.

Remillard bricks from the Brooklyn yard were shipped to the surrounding communities. Nearly every building built of brick in Oakland during this period was made of Remillard brick. These include Mills College, Oakland Brewery, County Courthouse and Jail, Union Savings Bank and many others. This yard shipped 840,000 bricks to the original San Francisco City Hall in 1872 and 1873. Some of the bricks were stamped with "CH" denoting City Hall.

By 1872, the clay deposit at Brooklyn had become exhausted and the company was forced to close the Brooklyn brickyard. The yard at the corner of Clay and 2nd streets became a distribution center for bricks made at their San Rafael, Potrero, Greenbrae, and Pleasanton yards. The Oakland yard also sold lime, cement, clay, plaster, and firebrick. The Oakland office was closed about 1941, and this wooden building, though modified, still stands today.

Peter (Pierre) N. Remillard, a native of St. Valeniz, Quebec, Canada, died in 1904 at the age of 67 years. His wife Cordelia (Cordule) Remillard ran the business until her death in 1934 at the age of 88 years. Then their younger daughter, Lillian, who had married an Italian nobleman Count Allessandro Dandini, ran the business until 1968. Lillian died in 1973 at the age of 93 years. Philip H. Remillard, son of Peter and Cordelia and vice president of the brick company, died in a tragic accident in 1901 at the age of 32 years. Hiliare Remillard died in 1902 at the age of 67. Edward Remillard died in 1903 at the age of 63 years.

Remillard Oakland Office Building
Remillard's headquarters at Clay and 2nd street, Oakland. Oakland Tribune, 1901.


Remillard Oakland yard
Remillard's Oakland sales yard behind the office at Clay and 2nd street. Oakland Tribune. 1906.


Remillard Brick


Common brick is orange to pale red, with visible large white, red, brown, and black clasts on the surface, with abundant holes and pits. Angular clasts include white quartz, cream feldspar, white quartzite, yellow and gray chert with white veinlets, and dark igneous rocks (diorite or gabbro). Surface has a rough, gritty texture, coated with sand grains. The sand is composed of mostly subrounded to subangular orange-stained gray and white quartz, minor yellow chert, and brown iron oxide. Edges are irregular and dull. Corners are dull or broken corners. No lip is present. Longitudinal strike grooves, pits, and large voids are present on top face. Some display transverse grooves on the top face. Interior consists of about 10 percent subrounded to subangular massive white quartz, quartzite, cream feldspar, red and yellow chert with white veinlets, subrounded gray diorite or gabbro, green sandstone, and black iron oxide, all less than 1 inch in diameter, in a porous, orange-red, coarse sandy clay body. This brick was made using the soft-mud process. Length 8 1/4, width 4, height 2 1/4 - 2 3/8 inches. Part of this description is based on the bricks seen at the Remillard office at Clay and 2nd streets, Oakland.

Remillard Brooklyn common brick
Remillard brick pieces, showing the interior composition, from the Brooklyn yard.

Remillard Brooklyn common brick
Remillard brick showing an exterior sanded face from the Brooklyn yard.

Remillard Brooklyn common brick
Orange Remillard brick showing strike marks in the exterior face, from the Oakland brick yard site.

Remillard Brooklyn common brick
Red overburnt Remillard brick, from the Oakland brick yard site.

View of the interior of the Remillard Brooklyn common brick
View of the interior of the Remillard common brick.

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


References


Alameda County Gazette, 1870-1873.

Daily Alta Californian, July 2, 1861.

Dore, Maurice & Co., Map of Immense Credit Sale of 1000 Oakland Homestead Lots, San Francisco, 1868.

Federal Census Record, 1870.

Gardiner, Dorothy, The Countess and the Brickyard, Independent Journal, San Rafael, January 14, 1973.

Livermore Herald, Mrs. Remillard Passes, February 9, 1934.

Oakland City Directories, 1872-1941.

Oakland Transcript, January 23, 1876.

Oakland Tribune, 1887-1906.

Oakland Tribune, Drops Dead While Talking, March 11, 1903.

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

San Francisco Call, Death of Hiliare Remillard, March 27, 1902.

San Francisco Call, Last Rites Over Philip Remillard, March 16, 1901.

San Francisco Call, P. N. Remillard Dies After A Tedious Illness, August 4, 1904.

San Francisco Chronicle, Water-Front Fight, June 23, 1892, p. 11.

San Francisco Municiple Report, 1873-1874.

San Jose Mercury, Remillard Heiress Succumbs at 93, July 20, 1973.

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

Copyright 2004 Dan Mosier

Contact Dan Mosier at danmosier@earthlink.net.