California brick
CALIFORNIA BRICKS


Frank Sharples

History


Frank Sharples was a prominent contractor and builder in Hanford, Kings County, California. Born near Liverpool, England, in 1861, he entered the trade of brickmaking and ornamental masonry at Liverpool when he was 16 years old. His father, Peter, was a carpenter working in the suburbs of Liverpool. About 1880, Frank came briefly to the United States and then turned to Liverpool to work in the contracting business. In 1886, he married Marian Deeks, a native of Cheshire, and they raised a daughter and a son.

In September 1886, the Sharples immigrated to Los Angeles, California. Frank's first job there was laying up the fancy masonry and brickwork on the Grand Opera House in Pasadena. Entering in partnership with James M. Boyd and Charles J. Lindgren of Los Angeles, they erected many of the finest buildings in Los Angeles. After the fire of 1889 in Bakersfield, they went to that city to help rebuild. They erected the Southern Hotel, Masonic Temple, Post Office, and many other buildings.

In August 1890, the partnership dissolved and Frank went to Hanford where he worked as an independent contractor. At Hanford, he built the Artesia Hotel and buildings for Kutner, Goldstein and Company, Simon, Manasse and Company, Sarment, and Porter Mickle. In 1891, he built for himself the two-story Sharples Building on Sixth Street and his large three-story residence northwest of town. All of the bricks used in these early buildings were purchased from local brickyards.

View of the old County Jail when it was the Bastille in 2006. Built by Sharples in 1897.
View of the old County Jail when it was the Bastille in 2006. Built by Sharples in 1897.

Frank also owned 80 acres of ranch land about 4 miles south of Armona, southwest of Hanford, where he planted vines on 40 acres. In 1892, he began manufacturing bricks on his ranch property for use in his brickwork projects. There is no description of the clay deposit or his brickmaking operation. Common bricks were made using the soft-mud process. The bricks were probably fired in open field kilns.

Some of the first bricks were probably used at his residence that he built that year at the corner of 8th and Irwin streets in Hanford. Sharples bricks were also used in the Visalia High School, built in 1896. While building the Visalia High School, one of the brick walls collapsed, throwing Frank and his helper 40 feet to the ground and burying them under fallen bricks. They were seriously injured, though fortunately they both survived. In 1897, Sharples made the bricks for the County Jail, 113 Court Street, which still stands and provides examples of his bricks below. He was also awarded the contract in 1897 to build the two-story brick school at Hanford. Many of the brick buildings built by Sharples between 1892 and 1900 in the Hanford area are very likely made of his bricks.

Frank Sharples and his family had returned to England by 1901, residing at Birkenhead, Cheshire. Frank continued to work in the building trade as late as 1917. There were no further reports about Frank after that.

View of the old County Jail tower in 2006. Built by Sharples in 1897.
View of the old County Jail tower top. Brickwork by Sharples in 1897.


View of the old County Jail tower in 2006. Built by Sharples in 1897.
View of the old County Jail tower base. Brickwork by Sharples in 1897.


Sharples Brick

Common brick is red and mostly uniform in color. Some are burnt to a dark gray or black. The form is good with undulatory sharp edges and sharp to dull corners. Brick is very hard and compact. The surface has a light coating of sand. Clinkery black bricks may be slightly bloated with blister vesicles, splitting, and some warping. Thin irregular lip may be present around the top edges, though not all bricks have it. Some display light yellow angled flash patterns on the sides. Some of the overburnt bricks show black with a red core pattern on the sides. Cracks and large pits are common. Faces and interiors could not be observed for description. This brick was made using the soft-mud process. Length 8, width 3 3/4, height 2 1/4 inches.

View of the sides of Sharples bricks showing flash patterns and clinkers.
View of the sides of Sharples bricks showing flash patterns and clinkers.

View of the sides of Sharples bricks showing flash patterns and clinkers.
View of the sides of Sharples bricks showing flash patterns and clinkers.

View of the sides of Sharples bricks showing flash patterns and clinkers.
View of the sides of Sharples bricks showing flash patterns and clinkers.

References

A Bad Fall, Hanford Journal, October 23, 1896.

Ancestry.com, Gratrix Family Tree, ancestry.com (accessed 1 September 2014).

Brick, v. 7, no. 7, 1897, p. 18.

Engineering News, August 12, 1897, p. 112.

Hanford Directory, 1900.

Hanford Journal, May 17, 1892.

Lewis Publishing Co., A Memorial and Biographical History of the Counties of Fresno, Tulare, and Kern, California, Chicago, 1892.

Los Angeles City Directory, 1888.

Rootspoint, Frank Sharples, www.rootspoint.com (accessed 9 March 2016).

Copyright 2016 Dan Mosier

Contact Dan Mosier at danmosier@earthlink.net.