Home Page | Brickmakers
Simons Brick Company, Plant Number 4, Santa Monica
In 1886, Reuben and Melissa Simons and their six children left Hamburg, Iowa, for Los Angeles, California.
Reuben was a brickmaker, born in England in 1836, and had immigrated to the United States in 1866. Reuben and
his teenage sons, Joseph, Elmer, and Walter, located a clay deposit in the southern part of Pasadena, where
they opened their first brickyard. In 1896, they formed the Pacific Brick Company, with Joseph Simons as manager
and Elmer O. Simons as secretary. Their main office was located in the Stimson Building at 125 West Third Street
in Los Angeles. The Pasadena brickyard was a great success and soon the Simons sons were eager to expand
their brick manufacturing business to other areas. In 1900, the Simons Brick Company was incorporated with a
capital stock of $100,000. Joseph Simons was president, Elmer Simons was secretary and treasurer, and Walter R.
Simons was vice-president.
In November 1904, the Simons Brick Company turned towards Santa Monica where there was known to be an extensive plastic,
red-burning clay deposit. For $10,000, the Reuben Simons purchased 24 acres of land at Michigan Avenue and 26th Street
in Santa Monica. The plant office was located at 2600 Michigan Avenue. In December 1904, they
announced that they would establish a brick, tile, clay shingle, and pottery factory for about $150,000 at the site.
This became the Simons Brick Company Plant Number 4.
View of the Number 4 plant of the Simons Brick Company in Santa Monica, taken in 1939 after
it had closed. Courtesy of the Santa Monica Public Library Image Archives, City Collection.
By April 1905, the new brick plant was built consisting of a clay shed, machine room, with a 50 horsepower
motor, Berg brick presses, and six field kilns fired by oil. The plant employed 35 workers during the dry season.
C. C. Almons was the plant foreman, and he was succeeded William C. Smelser in 1912, Charles Klinkman in 1915,
Harry Maupin in 1930, and L.H. Lackey in 1933.
View of the drying sheds of the Simons Brick Company in Santa Monica, 1939.
Courtesy of the Santa Monica Public Library Image Archives, City Collection.
The clay pit was on the east side of the plant. The pit was mined to a depth of 25 to 30 feet. The clay was scraped
into a hopper and then fed onto a belt conveyor, which elevated the clay to the plant. In the plant, the clay
was ground, screened, and mixed with water in the pugmill. Bricks were formed using the brick presses and then
sent to the drying sheds to be air-dried. Once dried, the bricks were fired in the large field kilns. The bricks
from this plant were used mainly in the Santa Monica and western Los Angeles areas.
View of part of the flooded clay pit of the Simons Brick Company in Santa Monica, 1939.
The power conveyor carried raw clay from the pit up to the plant. Courtesy of the
Santa Monica Public Library Image Archives, City Collection.
The plant began producing bricks in April 1905, and the first ones were used in the Los Angeles
outfall sewer project. The company had placed a bid of $6.38 per 1,000, which was not the lowest, and won the
contract to provide nearly 9,000,000 brick. Some of the bricks were to come from their Inglewood plant.
By July 1905, the Santa Monica plant was supplying 10,000 brick per day. In January 1906, they had supplied
the bricks for two homes in Santa Monica. By May 1906, the plant was producing Mission roofing
tile and red dry-pressed brick. In May 1908, they received new machines for making soft-mud bricks.
View of the flooded clay pit of the Simons Brick Company in Santa Monica, 1939.
Courtesy of the Santa Monica Public Library Image Archives, City Collection.
When it was discovered that the Santa Monica clays produced good paving bricks, Joseph Simons traveled to the
east to learn about making paving brick. In August 1908, the Santa Monica plant began making vitrified red pavers.
Simons red clay tile was also added to the product line. By 1913, hollow blocks were listed among their products.
Samples found at the brick site by Roy Steege indicates that this plant also made wire-cut face brick and
ruffle (rug) brick. During the 1920s, Santa Monica shipped their clay to the Boyle Heights plant, which also
made tile and roofing tile. Some of the roofing tile was used on the home of Joseph Simons.
Reuben Simons died at the age of 73 years in 1910. In 1913, Elmer Simons, a native of Iowa, died at the age of 44 years. In 1916, Walter Simons bought all
of the interest in the brick company from his brother Joseph Simons, who decided to embark in the citrus
business in San Bernardino County. That year the company had decreased its capitalization from $600,000
to $300,000. The company officers in 1928 were Walter Simons as president, Robert P. Isitt as vice-president,
H. B. Howeth as secretary, and J. T. Crampton as treasurer.
The Simons Brick Company closed the Santa Monica plant about 1935, when demand for clay building products
were declining. For years, the plant stood abandoned and the clay pits filled with water. In August 1947,
the Santa Monica City Council authorized the purchase of the abandoned Simons clay property for a new municipal
incinerator and landfill. The clay pits were eventually filled and the former site of the Simons brickyard
was built over by modern office buildings and a freeway. In November 1954, Walter Simons passed away at the
age of 80 years.
Map showing the plant layout of the Simons Brick Company in Santa Monica. Sanborn Map Company, 1909.
Simons Santa Monica Brick
Common brick is orange red to various shades of red, mostly uniform in color. The surface is smooth. Edges are
nearly sharp, but often chipped, and not always straight. Corners are broken. Sides are smooth and flat, with
minor pits and some may display stack indentations. The top edge has a prominent lip 1/4 inch in thickness.
The top face is pitted with a faint transverse strike. The bottom face is smooth and flat. Marked faces have
a rectangular side-beveled frog that is 6 1/4 inches long, 2 inches wide, and 1/8 inch deep; these dimensions
can vary. In the bottom of the frog and centered are the raised block letters of the name "SIMONS". The name
spans 5 5/8 inches in length, 1 1/8 inches in height, and is 1/8 inch thick. The sizes of the both the frog
and name can vary. The interior clay body is compact with 5 to 10 percent pores and about 20 to 30 percent
clasts, ranging up to 1/4 inch across. The clasts are mainly subangular quartz and granitic rocks. The abundance
of granitic clasts is a distinguishing feature of this brick, compared with bricks from other Simons plants.
This brick was made using the machine-molded, water-struck, soft-mud process.
Length 8 - 8 1/4, width 3 3/4 - 4, height 2 - 2 1/4.
View of the bottom marked face of the Simons Santa Monica plant brick showing the brand name.
View of the side of the Simons Santa Monica plant brick.
View of the rough top face of the Simons Santa Monica plant brick. White mortar partly coats the face.
View of the interior clay body of the Simons Santa Monica plant brick. The white clasts are quartz and granitic rocks.
Simons dry-press brick is orange-red and mostly uniform in color. The surface is smooth, but has a
gritty feel and is friable. The edges are straight and dull. Corners are often broken. The sides are smooth
and flat and even. Some granitic clasts can be seen at the surface. No lip is present. The top face is flat,
even, pitted, and shows an abundance of granitic clasts. The bottom face is marked with the company name
set inside a rectangular side-beveled frog. The frog measures 6 3/8 inches in length, 2 inches in width, and
1/8 inch in depth. Centered in the bottom of the frog are the raised block letters "SIMONS", that span
5 1/2 inches and are 1 inch in height. The letters are 1/8 inch thick. The interior clay body is granular with
about 35 percent clasts of subround to subangular granitic rocks and quartz, up to 3/8 inch across. This brick was
made using a dry press machine. Length 8 1/2, width 3 3/4, height 2 3/8.
View of the bottom marked face of the Simons dry-press brick showing the brand name.
View of the side of the Simons dry-press brick.
View of the rough top face of the Simons dry press brick. Note the abundance of granitic clasts.
Wire-Cut Face Brick
This Simons wire-cut face brick was found at the Santa Monica plant site by Roy Steege, so I will
describe it here where it was probably made. It is orange-red and somewhat mottled in color, with
faint lighter shades of flash on the sides. The surface is smooth and on this example shows cracks,
splitting, and some deformation, indicating that this was a reject from the kiln. The sides have no
lip. The faces display curved wire-cut marks and a velour texture. This brick is not marked with a
brand name. The edges are straight and sharp. Corners were broken. The interior clay body is a compact
red clay, darker than the surface, and nearly vitrified, making this a hard and compact brick. In
the clay can be seen tiny specks of white quartz and black iron, less than 1/32 inch in size. These
clasts constitute about 5 percent of the clay. This brick was made using the extruded, wire-cut,
stiff mud process. Length 8, width 3 3/4, height 2 1/4.
View of the face of the Simons face brick showing the wire-cut marks.
View of the side of the Simons face brick. Note the interior clay body in the broken section on the far right.
This Simons ruffle brick was found at the Santa Monica plant site by Roy Steege, so I will
describe it here where it was probably made. It is orange and mostly uniform in color.
The faces display curved wire-cut marks and a velour texture. This brick is not marked with
a brand name. One side has a smooth surface. The other side and at least one end are grooved with the
rug texture. The grooves are transverse and evenly spaced about 1/2 inch apart. The groove is 1/8 inch
wide and deep. Estimated from the projected length of the bat, there are probably 17 grooves on the side.
There are 8 grooves on the end. The edges are straight and sharp. Corners are broken. The interior clay
is compact and nearly vitrified, and shows lamination with rare vesicles. In the clay are about 10 percent
tiny specks of black iron, less than 1/32 inch in size, and rarer white quartz, 1/16 inch across. This brick
was made using the extruded, wire-cut, stiff mud process.
Length 8, width 3 3/4, height 2 1/4.
View of the face of the Simons face brick bat showing the wire-cut marks. Note the interior clay body on the far right.
View of the side of the Simons face brick bat showing the rug texture.
View of the end of the Simons face brick bat showing the rug texture of 8 evenly spaced transverse grooves.
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. 58.
Copyright © 2010 Dan Mosier
Brick and Clay Record, v. 25, no. 12, 1904, p. 36.
Brick and Clay Record, v. 26, no. 3, 1905, p. 43.
Brick and Clay Record, v. 49, no. 3, 1916, p. 243.
Brick and Clay Record, v. 49, no. 8, 1916, p. 725.
Brick and Clay Record, Perfects New 12-Inch Brick Hollow Wall, v. 62, no. 4, 1924, p. 324.
Brick and Clay Record, Simons Brick Continuously and Consistently Advertised, v. 68, no. 4, 1926, p. 310.
Byers, Charles A. When the Brickmaker Builds. Brick and Clay Record, v. 46, no. 12, 1915, p. 1138.
Dietrich, Waldemar F. The Clay Resources and the Ceramic Industry of
California. California State Mining Bureau Bulletin 99, 1928, p. 119.
Freedner, James, written communications, 2007-2009.
Ingersoll, Luther A. Ingersoll's Century History Santa Monica Bay Cities. Los Angeles, 1908.
Los Angeles City Directories, 1894-1934.
Los Angeles Herald. Simons Brick Company. v. 32, no. 337, September 3, 1905.
Los Angeles Herald, Reuben Simons Dies, March 8, 1910.
Los Angeles Times. Tract To Be Purchased. August 19, 1947.
Merrill, F.J.H. Los Angeles County, Orange County, Riverside County. California
State Mining Bureau 15th Report of the State Mineralogist, part 4, 1916, p. 461-589.
Pasadena Star News. Started Brickyard. August 8, 1962.
Ries, Heinrich, and Leighton, Henry. History of the Clay-Working Industry in the United States.
John Wiley & Sons, New York, 1909.
Sanborn Map Company. Sanborn Fire Insurance Map of the City of Santa Monica, 1909. Chadwyck-Healey, 1981.
Santa Monica City Diretories, 1905-1936.
Santa Monica Outlook. Transfers In Real Estate. November 18, 1904, p. 4.
Santa Monica Outlook. Transfers In Real Estate. November 26, 1904, p. 1.
Santa Monica Outlook. The Big Brick Plant Assured. December 7, 1904, p. 1.
Santa Monica Outlook. Santa Monica Bids For Brick. January 3, 1905, p. 1.
Santa Monica Outlook. Big Thing For Santa Monica. January 31, 1905, p. 1.
Santa Monica Outlook. Machinery For Brick Factory. January 31, 1905, p. 1.
Santa Monica Outlook. Brick Now and Pottery Later. April 24, 1905, p. 1.
Santa Monica Outlook. Santa Monica Makes Brick. July 8, 1905, p. 1.
Santa Monica Outlook. Building On Irwin Heights. January 13, 1906, p. 1.
Santa Monica Outlook. Important To Builders. May 12, 1906, p. 1.
Santa Monica Outlook. Is Seeking For Points. October 7, 1907.
Santa Monica Outlook. New Machinery For Brick Factory. May 8, 1908, p. 1.
Steege, Roy, written communications, 2008.
Home Page | Brickmakers
Comments or questions are welcomed.
Please send email to Dan Mosier at firstname.lastname@example.org.