California brick
CALIFORNIA BRICKS


Rose Canon Brick Company

History


On April 1, 1890, Charles H. Hill, a San Diego liquor dealer, secured a lease for ten years of 80 acres of land in Rose Canyon, where he found good clay for bricks, north of San Diego. The Eocene-age clay deposit in Rose Canyon was believed to be the best in San Diego County.

Hill purchased a 16-compartment Boehncke continuous kiln from the Centinela Brick Kiln and Drier Company, Centinela, California. The kiln was completed by mid-summer of 1890 with a million bricks. It was elliptical in plan, 100 feet long and 60 feet wide (according to John W. Rice, Jr., the kiln size was 200 feet long by 50 or 75 feet wide). The double brick wall was 12 to 18 inches thick with the inside space filled with earth. A chimney for draft was built next to the kiln. This chimney was built to 115 feet in height and became known as the famous leaning chimney, which was 6 to 8 feet out of line. One compartment of the kiln was where bricks were being stacked, water-smoking took place in six compartments, full firing in three compartments, cooling in four compartments, and bricks were emptied from one compartment. Waste heat from the fired compartments were sent to water-smoking compartments and heat from the cooling compartments was returned to the fire. Dampers were arranged to apply heat to the bottom, center, and top of the compartment to provide an even firing. The manufacturing of hard, medium, or soft bricks were controlled by the duration of firing. This kiln was capable of making nine million bricks per year all year round.

View of the leaning chimney of the Rose Canyon Brick Company.
View of the leaning chimney of the Rose Canyon Brick Company (upper left) and its
collapse in the storm of 1962 (lower right). From the San Diego Union, January 21, 1962.

The bricks were formed in brick presses to manufacture straight bricks of excellent form or special shapes. The first bricks were made in July 1890, and sent to the Fisher Opera House and the Ollne Building in San Diego. The plant was making 20,000 to 25,000 brick per day. By December 1890, the plant had seven brick presses.

In 1890, orders also came in for 75,000 bricks for the Keating Building, 100,000 bricks for the first wing of the College of Fine Arts, and 50,000 bricks for a San Francisco firm. Shipments that year were also made to Cerros Island, Honolulu, and Valparaiso, Chile. By January 1891, 400,000 bricks were taken out of the kiln. This included 50,000 white bricks. The Cole Block (1891) may be an example of the white brick. In February 1891, 32,000 bricks were shipped to Eureka, California.

On August 18, 1891, the Rose Canon Brick Company was incorporated with a capital stock of $100,000. Directors were Charles Hill, J. W. Collins, and three others. The purpose was to manufacture plain and ornamental brick and tiling. The company office was at 1311 E Street in San Diego. The company name was sometimes listed as "Rose Canyon Brick Company."

In August 1891, the brick company was sued by A. G. Gassen for unlawfully removing clay from his land of 155 acres, being on Pueblo Lot 1787. The case was settled in the Superior Court in September 1893 in favor of Gassen for $100 in damages. It was found that the Rose Canon kiln sat on the boundary line between the brick yard and Gassen's property. The brick company was refrained from digging or removing clay or removing any machinery on the property, resulting in the closing of the brickyard.

In January 1913, P. J. Knapp was contracted to build a new brick plant for the Rose Canon Brick Company. The plant was to have a capacity of 40,000 bricks per day. Common brick, face brick, enamel brick, tile, and paving brick were to be made, but it is unclear if this was ever accomplished.

From 1908 to 1922, David F. Garretson was president and J. S. Akerman was secretary of the Rose Canon Brick Company. In 1914, State Geologist Merrill reported that the brickyard was idle. The company office had changed to 411 E Street in San Diego. In 1923, Earl A. Garretson was acting secretary. Although the brickyard remained idle, the Rose Canon Brick Company continued to exist as late as 1936.

In 1904, A. G. Gassen sold his property to the Union Brick Company, which became part owner of the Rose Canon plant. During World War II, the bricks from the large continuous kiln were taken to be used for paving at Camp Callan. Only the leaning chimney remained as a curious landmark until it fell over in a 1962 wind storm. The salvaged brick from the fallen chimney went into the fireplaces in Rancho Bernardo homes and apartments.

Rose Canon Brick

Pressed Bricks

Pressed brick is red and uniform in color. Form is excellent with straight sharp edges and sharp corners. The surface is smooth with small pits and visible white quartz clasts.

View of the sides of the Rose Canon pressed brick in the Keating Building, San Diego.
View of the sides of the Rose Canon pressed brick in the Keating Building, San Diego.

View of the sides of the Rose Canon pressed special shaped brick.
View of the sides of the Rose Canon pressed wedge shaped and special shaped brick.

View of the Rose Canon ornamental header (painted white) and wedge-shaped bricks.
View of the Rose Canon ornamental header (painted white) and wedge-shaped bricks.

White Bricks

White brick is cream and mottled with pinkish orange. The form is excellent with straight sharp edges and sharp corners. The surface is smooth with minor pits and visible white quartz, brown iron oxide, and red and white clay, all less than 1/8 inch in diameter. Interior is pinkish fine clay with 10 percent subrounded clasts of white quartz, brown iron oxide, and red and white clay.

View of the sides of the Rose Canon white brick in the Cole Block, San Diego.
View of the sides of the Rose Canon white brick in the Cole Block, San Diego.

View of the sides of the Rose Canon white brick.
View of the sides of the Rose Canon white brick.

View of the faces of the Rose Canon white brick.
View of the faces of the Rose Canon white brick.

View of the surface of the Rose Canon white brick.
View of the surface of the Rose Canon white brick.

View of the Rose Canon ornamental white brick.
View of the Rose Canon ornamental white brick.

References

A Big Institution, San Diego Union, July 26, 1890.

A Big Kiln of Brick, San Diego Union, January 14, 1891.

A Brick Yard Company, San Diego Union, August 19, 1891.

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

Brick, v. 4, no. 5, May 1896, p. 359.

Clay Worker, v. 59, no. 1, January 1913, p. 130.

County Storm Causes Widespread Damage, San Diego Union, January 21, 1962.

Leaning Chimney Has Tilted History, San Diego Union, March 26, 1961.

Merrill, Frederick J. H., Geology and Mineral Resources of San Diego and Imperial Counties, California State Mining Bureau, December 1914.

Rose Canyon Chimney, A New Role Told, San Diego Union, March 10, 1963.

S. D. 'Leaning Tower' Stands for 48 Years, San Diego Union, June 21, 1936.

San Diego City Directory, 1903.

San Diego City Directory, 1906.

San Diego City Directory, 1908.

San Diego City Directory, 1923.

San Diego City Directory, 1930.

San Diego City Directory, 1933.

San Diego City Directory, 1935.

San Diego Union, April 2, 1890.

San Diego Union, February 28, 1891.

San Diego Union, May 25, 1893.

San Diego Union, September 13, 1893.

Turning Out Pressed Brick, San Diego Union, December 11, 1890.

Copyright 2018 Dan Mosier

Contact Dan Mosier at danmosier@earthlink.net.