California brick
CALIFORNIA BRICKS


Remillard and Brothers, San Jose 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 and yard 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.

In the fall of 1891, Remillard purchased the Ashworth ranch of 173 acres, located on the east bank of Coyote Creek at the end of Keyes Street, San Jose. Today, this property is located at Remillard and Story roads. The property had a clay deposit of over 30 feet thick. A dragline scraper and donkey engine were used to mine the yellow clay. The clay was loaded into railroad cars and then hauled 250 yards to the mixing and molding plant. The plant and kiln were built in 1892. No special preparation was used. The clay contained the right amount of sand to make perfect bricks. Bricks were molded in wooden molds of six bricks per mold. The green bricks were then laid on the drying ground before it was fired in the kiln (see picture). One Hoffman continuous kiln was used to fire the bricks. The kiln was inside a building 1,000 feet long and 90 feet wide. The kiln had a capacity of 50,000 bricks per day. This plant produced 13 million bricks per year. Since about 1895, all of the Remillard pressed bricks came from this yard. It employed 125 men for six months.

About 1915, Remillard suspended operations at the San Jose yard, probably due to declining demand for bricks. John E. McNear, who had visited the yard prior to their closing, added, "The freshly molded bricks were on small pallets that were carried from the brick machine to drying racks on a pair of moving cables. Men put these pallets on shelves in the racks. After a few days, men would flip the bricks on edge. When dry enough, the bricks were put in a horse drawn cart. When the cart was full, a man would whistle and the horse, unguided, would pull the cart into the correct door of the Hoffman kiln."

About 1961, Remillard-Dandini Company reopened the San Jose brick yard. During this period, J.S. Dandini was president, John F. Dair and Norman J. Gatzer were vice-presidents, L.E. Johnson was secretary and treasurer, and Mrs. J. Zont was assistant secretary of the company. Operations continued until about 1968, when the company permanently closed the plant. The remaining stock of Remillard bricks continued to be sold until about 1973.

Remillard San Jose brickyard
Views of the Remillard's San Jose brickyard. From Foote, 1888.


Remillard Brick

Common Brick

Common brick is pale red, with no visible clasts or holes on the surface. The surface is rough and gritty, with a coating of very fine sand composed of subrounded to subangular orange-stained quartz and black iron oxide. Edges are. irregular and dull. Corners are dull or broken. Some show prominent lip around top edge. Some display transverse mold striations on sides. The interior contains 5 percent round white clay clots, well-rounded red chert, all less than 1/4 inch in diameter, in a porous, orange-red, fine sandy clay body. This brick was made using the hand-molded, sand-struck, soft-mud process. Length 8 1/8, width 3 7/8, height 2 1/2 inches.

Remillard San Jose common brick
Remillard San Jose brick top face showing some overburning and minor crazing.

Remillard San Jose common brick
Remillard San Jose brick long edge.

Remillard San Jose common brick
Remillard San Jose brick end.

Remillard San Jose common brick
Remillard San Jose brick top face of red brick.

Remillard San Jose common brick
Remillard San Jose brick long edge of red brick.

Remillard San Jose common brick
Remillard San Jose brick end of red brick.

Remillard San Jose common brick
Remillard San Jose brick in wall.

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).


Pressed Brick

Pressed brick from the Remillard plant site is orange-red, straight, sharp edges and sharp corners, if not broken. Smooth surface on sides, ends, and non-branded face. Branded face has a gritty, sanded surface. White clay clasts up to a quarter inch across constitutes about 30% of the clay body, and smaller specks of white quartz and feldspar are visible on the surface. Transverse fine striations displayed on sides and ends. Spalls easily. Brand name is in recessed block letters as REMILLARD on one of the faces. The name spans a length of 5 7/8 inches and the letters are 7/8 inch high. This brick was made in the early 1890s. Length 7 3/4 - 8 1/4, width 3 3/4 - 3 7/8, height 2 1/2 - 2 7/8 inches.

Remillard San Jose pressed brick
Remillard San Jose pressed brick displaying company name on one of the faces.
Donated by Sue Cucuzza.

Remillard San Jose pressed brick
Remillard San Jose pressed brick in the foundation of the Remillard home, San Jose.

First Unitarian Church in Oakland
Remillard San Jose pressed brick was used in
the First Unitarian Church, Oakland.

Remillard San Jose pressed brick in First Unitarian Church at Oakland
Remillard San Jose pressed brick in the walls
of the First Unitarian Church, Oakland.

References

Crawford, J.J., Structural Materials, California State Mining Bureau 12th Annual Report of the State Mineralogist, 1894, p. 379-405.

Cucuzza, Sue, personal communications, 2004.

Franke, Herbert A., Santa Clara County, California State Mining Bureau 26th Report of the State Mineralogist, no. 1, 1930, p. 2-39.

Foote, H.S., Pen Pictures from the Garden of the World or Santa Clara County, California, The Lewis Publishing Co., Chicago, 1888.

Guinn, J.M., History of the State of California and Biographical Record of Coast Counties, California, The Chapman Publishing Co., Chicago, 1904.

Lamoureux, Michel, written communication, 2017.

McNear, John E., written communication, 2010 and 2011.

Oakland Times, 1895.

Oakland Tribune, 1887-1906.

Oakland Tribune, Alameda County, Oakland, 1898.

San Francisco Magazine, Remillard's Romantic Dining In An Old Brick Kiln, May 1990, P. 55-56.

San Jose City Directories, 1892-1973.

San Jose Mercury, Remillard Heiress Succumbs at 93, July 20, 1973, p. 38.

Watts, William L., Santa Clara County, California State Mining Bureau 11th Report of the State Mineralogist, 1893, p. 374-375.

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

Copyright 2004 Dan Mosier

Contact Dan Mosier at danmosier@earthlink.net.