California brick

Mendocino State Hospital


On the grounds of the former Mendocino State Hospital at Talmage, a clay deposit was found probably around 1918. The clay consisted of gravelly silt, about 10 feet deep, covering one-half acre of land. The hospital was in need of new buildings so the clay deposit came in handy for making bricks on site. This apparently was common practice of several other state hospitals. The names of the brick makers at Talmage are unknown but it is likely some of the inmates were employed in the manufacture of bricks. The exact location of the brick yard on the grounds is unknown.

The clay was mined with a plow and scraper. The plant was equipped with a disintegrator, conveyor, pug-mill, and auger machine, with a wire cutter. It was reported that the lack of screening equipment reduced the capacity of the machinery to 8,000 bricks per day from 30,000, on account of the gravel in the clay. Firing was done in open field kilns. The production cost of the brick was about $11.50 per thousand.

The bricks were made between 1918 and 1924. There are at present at least six buildings still standing containing these bricks. The hospital closed in 1973, and is presently the home of the City of 10,000 Buddas.

Mendocino State Hospital Brick

Common brick is orange, mostly uniform in color. Some bricks display transverse flash markings of dark red and yellow. Visible clasts are only a few red, green, and yellow subrounded chert and sandstone pebbles, and angular white quartz, all ranging up to 3/8 inch across. The gravel is more abundant in the interior of the brick and can be seen on broken or eroded surfaces. There are a couple of transverse grooves on the sides, and typically a single deep v-shaped groove is prominent. The surface is smooth as expected for extruded, wire cut bricks. Faces display curved wire-cut marks with a velour texture. The distinguishing feature of this brick is the cracking along the short edge of the brick, usually about a half to one inch in length longitudinally. In some bricks, the edges have expalled from the cracking, leaving a jagged edge. Stiff-mud, wire-cut process. Length 8 3/8, width 4, height 2 3/8 inches.

Mendocino State Hospital brick
View of the sides of the Mendocino State Hospital brick at 5301 Bohdi Way.


Dietrich, Waldemar F., The Clay Resources and the Ceramic Industry of California, California State Mining Bureau Bulletin 99, 1928.

Copyright 2006 Dan Mosier

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