California brick
CALIFORNIA BRICKS


Simons Brick Company, Plant Number 4, Santa Monica

History


Walter R. Simons
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. In December 1904, they announced that they would establish a brick, tile, clay shingle, and pottery factory for about $150,000 at the site. In 1905, the Reuben Simons initially purchased 24 acres of land at Michigan Avenue and 26th Street in Santa Monica, for $10,618. The plant office was located at 2600 Michigan Avenue. This became the Simons Brick Company Plant Number 4.

Simons Brick Co. Santa Monica brickyard
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.

Simons Brick Co. Santa Monica brickyard
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. In 1913, the clay reserves were reported to be 609,605 tons and this was expected to be depleted in four years. Additional clay land of 93 acres was purchased on July 31, 1923 that allowed mining to continue to 1935. 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.

Simons Brick Co. Santa Monica brickyard
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 thousand, 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.

Simons Brick Co. Santa Monica brickyard
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. 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. At this time also, the yard made handmolded brick when it received 100 six-brick maple molds, 9 1/8 x 4 5/16 x 2 1/2 inches, with one panel holding the "SIMONS" mark in a rectangular frog.

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 of Simons Brick Co. Santa Monica brickyard
Map showing the plant layout of the Simons Brick Company in Santa Monica. Sanborn Map Company, 1909.


Simons Santa Monica Brick

Common 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 inches.

Simons Brick Co. Santa Monica common brick marked face
View of the bottom marked face of the Simons Santa Monica plant brick showing the brand name.


Simons Brick Co. Santa Monica common brick
View of the side of the Simons Santa Monica plant brick.


Simons Brick Co. Santa Monica common brick
View of the rough top face of the Simons Santa Monica plant brick. White mortar partly coats the face.


Simons Brick Co. Santa Monica common brick interior
View of the interior clay body of the Simons Santa Monica plant brick. The white clasts are quartz and granitic rocks.


Dry-Press Brick

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 inches.

Simons Brick Co. Santa Monica dry=pressed brick marked face
View of the bottom marked face of the Simons dry-press brick showing the brand name.


Simons Brick Co. Santa Monica dry-pressed brick
View of the side of the Simons dry-press brick.


Simons Brick Co. Santa Monica dry-pressed brick
View of the rough top face of the Simons dry-press brick. Note the abundance of granitic clasts.


Simons Brick Co. Santa Monica dry-pressed brick
View of the interior clay body of the Simons dry-press brick.


Source

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.

Brick, v. 25, no. 12, 1904, p. 36.

Brick, 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.

Higgins, Josh, written communications, 2012.

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.

Simons Brick Company, A Corporation, Petitioner, v. Commissioner of Internal Revenue, Respondent, In the United States Circuit Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, No. 6082, Filed November 18, 1930.

Steege, Roy, written communications, 2008.

Stoll, G.C. ledgers, Western Claymachinery Sales, Inc., copied by Josh Higgins, 2012.

Copyright 2010 Dan Mosier

Contact Dan Mosier at danmosier@earthlink.net.