California brick
CALIFORNIA BRICKS


Western Brick Company, Plant No. 1, Los Angeles

Advertisement of the Western Brick Company.
Advertisement of the Western Brick Company. From Southwest Builder and Contractor, 1922.

History


In 1920, a brickyard was started in Chavez Ravine, Los Angeles. In 1921, the Western Brick Company was incorporated in Los Angeles with a capital stock of $50,000. The directors were Gus A. Wild, Mary H. Wild, August Fischer, J.J. Lagomarsine, and L.F. Schulze, all of Los Angeles. The company office was located at 126 West Third Street in the Lankershim Building in Los Angeles. This company owned three brickyards in Los Angeles County. The first brickyard was located in Chavez Ravine where the Dodger Stadium stands today. The other two yards were in Santa Monica and Long Beach. This article is about the Los Angeles brickyard, which was located at 1155 Lilac Terrace, which is now the property of the Dodger Stadium.

The brickyard property contained a yellow shale and sandy shale of the Upper Miocene Puente-Modelo formation, used for making red brick. There is little information about this brick plant. From known bricks, it appears that the material was thrown directly into a pug-mill for mixing with little grinding or screening of the raw material, based on the large clasts found in the interior of the brick. The bricks were formed in 40 six-brick cherry molds, 9 1/8 x 4 1/4 x 2 1/2 inches, with one panel marked with the company name and another panel with the emblem of the Common Brick Manufacturers Association. Another set of 11 six-brick cherry molds, 9 1/8 x 4 1/4 x 2 9/16 inches, with "XXX" markings were also ordered in 1920. Field kilns were probably used to fire the brick. This plant was reported to have a capacity of 10 million brick per year.

The bricks produced here were common building brick that were shipped throughout Los Angeles County. Most of the bricks were consumed in downtown area of Los Angeles. One out of six bricks was marked with the name WESTERN inside a rectangular frog on the face. The rest were not marked and had a flat plain face. Western bricks from this yard may be distinguished from those from the Western Brick Company's Santa Monica and Long Beach yards, by the larger sizes of the lettering and frog, the style of the letter "R", and the type of clay material, which contains the diagnostic yellow shale and sandstone.

In 1925, a petition was filed by the local residents of Chavez Ravine asking the Los Angeles City Council to force the Western Brick Company to move its yard because the polluting fumes from the kilns were injuring the health of the people and depreciating their property values.

In 1930, the Western Brick Company merged with the Santa Monica Brick Company and the California Brick and Tile Company to form a new company called the Consolidated Brick and Tile Company of Los Angeles. Gus A. Wild, from Western's Santa Monica yard, became president of the new company. The Consolidated Brick and Tile Company probably closed the Western Brick Company yard in Los Angeles, based on no reports of activity from the yard after that date. The Western Brick Company remained until about 1936, when it was dissolved. In 1950, the City of Los Angeles took the property by eminent domain for their redevelopment project and the brickyard site was completely erased by the construction of Dodger Stadium.

Western Brick

Western common brick from the Los Angeles yard is dark orange-red and uniform in color. The sides are smooth with faint transverse striations and pits up to 1/2 inch in diameter. The edges and corners are dull. The top face is highly pitted and rough with visible clasts of yellow and red stones, and a longitudinal strike. The bottom face is flat and the marked face has a rectangular frog with beveled sides that is 6 5/8 inches in length and 2 inches in width. Centered at the bottom of the frog are raised block letters in rounded form of WESTERN, that span 5 3/4 inches and stands 1 inch in height. The interior contains abundant clasts (20 percent) of mostly well-rounded pebbles of red sandstone, subrounded to subangular yellow shale and sandy shale, all less than 1 inch in diameter, in a porous orange-red sandy clay body. The size and style of lettering of the name and the yellow shale and sandstone distinguish this brick from those made at the other Western Brick Company yards. This brick was made using the soft-mud process. Length 8 1/2, width 4, height 2 1/4 inches.

View of the marked face of the Western common brick.
View of the marked face of the Western common brick.

View of the side of the Western common brick.
View of the side of the Western common brick.

View of the rough top face of the Western common brick.
View of the rough top face of the Western common brick.

View of the interior of the Western common brick.
View of the interior of the Western common brick.

View of the interior of the Western common brick brick showing the large yellow shale inclusions.
View of the interior of the Western common
brick showing large yellow shale inclusions.

Microscopic view of the interior clay body of the Western common brick with yellow shale in
the lower left (50x, field of view is 1/4 inch).
Microscopic view of the interior clay body of
the Western common brick with yellow shale in
the lower left (50x, field of view is 1/4 inch).

References

Ask Removal of Los Angeles Firm," Brick and Clay Record, v. 67, no. 12, 1925, p. 876.

California Has a "Western Brick Co.," Brick and Clay Record, v. 58, no. 5, 1921, p. 413.

Dietrich, Waldemar F., The Clay Resources and the Ceramic Industry of California, California State Mining Bureau Bulletin 99, 1928, p. 122-123.

Gay, T.E., and Hoffman, S.R., Mines and Mineral Resources of Los Angeles County, California, California State Mining Bureau, California Journal of Mines and Geology, v. 50, no. 3-4, 1954, p. 467-709.

Higgins, Josh, written communications, 2012.

Los Angeles City Directories, 1921-1930.

Santa Monica City Directories, 1923-1936.

Santa Monica Outlook, October 18, 1924.

Southwest Builder and Contractor, v. 59, no. 27, July 7, 1922, p. 47.

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

Symons,Henry H., California Mineral Production and Directory of Mineral Producers For 1930, California State Mining Bureau Bulletin 105, 1931, 231 p.

Wikipedia, Dodger Stadium, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dodger_Stadium (accessed May 23, 2014).

Copyright 2014 Dan Mosier

Contact Dan Mosier at danmosier@earthlink.net.