The Journal of San Diego History
Winter 1996, Volume 42, Number 1
Richard W. Crawford, Editor

by Alexander D. Bevil
Honorable Mention for the Joseph L. Howard Award:
Business History, in the 1996 San Diego History Center Institute of History

Images from the Article

The initials ‘C. H.,’ impressed in the brick of which our new City Hall is built, put there to denote that they were intended for that edifice, may (should they prove to possess the lasting properties claimed for them) become to the antiquar[ians] of the remote future a source of much worriment as they labor to decipher their probable meaning.1

Historical archaeologists and historians often study the most minute artifacts connected with a historical site. However, they normally neglect one particular class of artifacts commonly associated with historic sites: kiln-fired clay brick. One of the most durable of man-made building materials, they are often the only remaining material objects associated with a site. Long after wooden floors, roofs, and walls have rotted, bricks remain in the form of walls, cellars, foundations, and chimneys. When viewed as artifacts under historical and archaeological scrutiny, bricks can be most rewarding. Like pieces of cloth, buttons, metal hardware, and other artifacts, a brick possesses certain qualities that can help to identify when, how, and where it was made. Furthermore, this information can be used to correlate the approximate age of a building associated with the site.2

One of the best means of determining the approximate age of kiln-fired bricks found at an archaeological site is through the identification of their manufacturer. This can be accomplished through the identification of a brick’s logo or “brand” stamped on the bricks. Usually an anagram for the name of the company that made the brick, a brand was, and still is, a common means of product identification among brick manufacturers.3 Once identified, the history behind the brick’s manufacturer can help to approximate when and where the a bricks were made. Likewise, once the approximate age of the brick is determined, then an approximation can be determined as to the age of the building.

This technique produced excellent results in helping to interpret the history behind the construction of an important historical site in Old Town San Diego State Historic Park — the James McCoy house. No longer extant, the McCoy house once stood in the middle of lot 4 of block 46/408 in Old Town San Diego. Facing Garden Street, the two-story gable-end house dominated the northwestern section of Old Town.4 In 1869 McCoy hired local building contractor Daniel Brown Kurtz to construct a wood-frame house on his property for himself and his wife.5 Some seventeen years later, McCoy had the house expanded and embellished with Late Victorian Italianate ornamentation.6 McCoy lived in the house while County Sheriff and, later, as State Senator. He died in the house in 1898. His widow remarried and remained living in the house with her new husband until her death in 1916. Sold after her death to the Seventh Day Adventist Church, it served as a “Christian Workers Home” until 1927. That year it was sold and demolished to make way for an automobile court. The court operated until 1961, when Caltrans purchased the property, demolished the auto court, and consolidated it into a larger parking lot. In 1982 the California Department of Parks and Recreation acquired the property and maintained it as a parking lot for visitors to Old Town San Diego State Historic Park.7

Since 1977 the McCoy house has been recognized in the park’s General Plan as one of several structures selected for possible reconstruction. According to the plan, once the McCoy house is completed, it will serve as the park’s new interpretive center. However, until 1992, its precise location was not clear. Between 1992 and 1996 archaeologists and historians of the California Department of Parks and Recreation carried out extensive archaeological and historical research at Old Town State Historic Park in order to locate the McCoy house site. During these excavations, archaeologists uncovered a major portion of the house’s brick foundations.8

The layout of the brick foundations supported the fact that McCoy had the house built in two stages. The foundation consisted of two layers of bricks: an underlying layer of dull red bricks, capped by a layer of lighter-colored orange-red bricks. Apparently the original floor was raised farther above the ground after the renovation. In addition there was a single foundation of orange-red bricks used in the foundation of a bay window installed during the house’s Late Victorian expansion and remodeling.9 One question that remained unanswered was, if the dull-red bricks are part of the original 1869 construction, then when were the orange-red bricks installed? If this could be answered, the approximate date of the house’s later expansion and remodeling could be determined. A break came as the research team separated a number of the orange-red bricks from the mortar binding them together. Many if not all of these bricks uncovered were stamped with the brand — “PBYCo.”10

As previously stated, a brick brand is an anagram for the name of the company that manufactured the brick. In the case of the PBYCo logo, its identification was critical in determining the possible date of the expansion and remodeling of the McCoy house. In addition, the information gathered from the research has helped to interprete the history behind of one of the most prolific brick making operations in San Diego, the Park Brick Yard Company.

The connection between the Park Brick Yard Company and the McCoy house begins on April 1, 1887. Records indicate that on that date McCoy entered into a contract with local building contractors James Wright and Harry Wells.11 Although the actual text of the contract no longer exists, it is quite possible that they were the primary contractors involved in the Italianate style expansion and remodeling of the McCoy house.

Voter registration records indicate that the 64-year-old Wright came to San Diego from New Hampshire in 1880. His partner, the 39-year-old Wells, had arrived previously from his native state of Louisiana.12 Both men worked as itinerant carpenters and building contractors in San Diego from approximately 1887 until 1890.13 As building contractors, Wright and Wells would more than likely have subcontracted the laying of the new bricks to local brick masons. Depending on the price, the masons in turn could have obtained bricks from local brickyards for the job. The bricks, in turn, could have been transported to the site from a local brick yard by horse and wagon, or by flatcar along the rails of the California Southern Railroad. More likely, the bricks were moved by the San Diego & Old Town Railway — the reason being that one of the railroads co-founders was none other than James McCoy.14

The date of the Wright and Wells contract, 1887, can thus be used as a temporal focal point in determining which brickyard manufactured PBYCo bricks. A search of local business directories and newspaper accounts of the activities of brick makers and brick yards in San Diego County at this time revealed that only one company in operation at that time had the initials “PBYCo” — the Park Brick Yard Company.15

The history of the Park Brick Yard Company begins on May 14, 1885, when building contractor Bradbury D. Day broke ground on eight leased lots in the semi-rural suburbs of southeast San Diego for the purpose of establishing and operating a brick yard. Located near the present-day intersection of 23rd and K streets, Day had chosen the site because it contained an almost unlimited quantity of the type of clay used in making construction-grade brick. In addition, the yard was only a short distance from the California Southern Railroad’s 22nd Street depot, facilitating the transport of brick to building sites throughout the county.16

A carpenter by trade from Maine, Day, who had come to San Diego in 1884, secured the services of British brick maker John W. Read to set up and manage the brick yard. With over twenty years experience making brick in his native country, Canada, and the eastern United States, Read was a master of his trade. While working for the Grand Trunk Railway in 1872, he made at least one million bricks in one kiln firing. Before coming to San Diego in 1884, he had made over 250,000 bricks at a kiln at Colton and another 750,000 at San Bernardino.17

Besides being used in the construction of buildings built by Day, bricks from the 23rd and K streets kiln were also sold to other building contractors. Because of the immediate demand for brick, only about 125,000 bricks were fired at the kiln. In the future, however, Read hoped to surpass that amount by over a million bricks in order to meet the growing demand of fired brick in San Diego.18

The cause of the demand for construction-grade brick was due in part to a tremendous amount of speculative building in both urban and suburban San Diego County. This was precipitated by the 1881 announcement of the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railroad agreeing to build its West Coast terminus at National City. With the completion of the line from National City to San Bernardino in 1885 by a subsidiary, the California Southern, the Santa Fe Railroad, and its main competitor the Southern Pacific Railroad, began aggressive advertising campaigns to attract passenger and freight traffic to Southern California. In addition, in 1888, a new coast line was built by the Santa Fe Railroad between Los Angeles and the junction of the California Southern’s main line north of Oceanside, bringing more people to the area. As ticket prices to Southern California dropped from $125 to $1, emigration soared. More than 41,000 people came to San Diego between 1885 and 1888 lured by specious prospects of an easy life in the world’s healthiest climate, or by the many promised opportunities for instant wealth in land speculation.19

All of this speculative growth created “the boom of the eighties.” As more and more people came to Southern California, towns along the railroad’s right-of-way saw a rush of growth, including hotels, banks, schools, and residences. The proliferation of local steam and electric-powered rail lines helped to create new suburban developments. Isolated clusters of brick commercial buildings soon sprang up in the heart of new suburban communities serviced by these rail lines.20

By the peak of the building boom in 1888, at least ten brickyards, employing over 500 workers, were operating in San Diego County from Elsinore to National City.21 Much of the manual labor performed in these brickyards was done primarily by Chinese day laborers, many of whom had worked previously on the construction of the various railroad lines. The laborers worked in gangs of eight, each gang consisting of a clay pit shoveler, two pit fillers, one molder, one setter, two off-bearers (those who carried the formed brick out into the yard to dry after they have been shaped by the molder), and one man who set the brick in the kiln for burning. Each gang could produce about 8,000 bricks a day. The average production rate of the various yards operating in San Diego reportedly ranged from 10,000 to 150,000 bricks per day.22

Contemporary newspaper accounts state that all bricks manufactured in San Diego during the late 1880s were made using the wet “pressed brick” process.23 Kneaded wet clay was set in wooden or iron forms. Once set, the wet, “green” bricks were taken out of their forms and lain on the ground to dry in the sun. However, they were not allowed to dry out completely. While they were still plastic, the bricks were placed in cast-iron molds. Pressure was then applied by means of a “double purchase lever” to squeeze out any remaining water.24

Another way of producing pressed brick was through the use of a “dry brick press machine.” In this process, ground dry clay, which only needed enough moisture in it to allow for good compaction, was dropped into iron molds and compressed by the use of pistons that forced it out through a tapered duct. The long extruded column of clay was then cut into individual bricks by vibrating knives. Pressed bricks often had the brickyard’s brand impressed by hand or machine on one surface. The bricks from both these processes were then sent to the kilns to be fired.25

San Diego’s weather was almost perfect for the manufacturing of bricks. The area’s long, dry building season, between April and December, meant that commercial and residential buildings could be constructed almost year round, thus increasing the demand for bricks. In 1887, which was the peak period of brick production in San Diego, local brickyards produced over twenty-five million bricks. The proliferation of brickyards, together with mass production methods and cheap labor, reduced the average price of ordinary construction-grade common bricks to about $9.00 per 1,000.26

The largest brick yard in the county, and regarded to be the largest in the state at the time, was the Coronado Brick Company. Located across the bay from downtown San Diego, it was a subsidiary of Elisha S. Babcock and Hampton L. Story’s Coronado Beach Company. One of the first brickyards in the nation to pioneer the use of petroleum in the firing of brick, a large part of the brickyard’s daily production of a half-million common bricks went into building the Hotel del Coronado.27

Besides going into the construction of the Hotel Del Coronado, bricks from the Coronado Brick Yard were transported around the bay on the Coronado Beach Railroad to sites in San Diego. On June 25, 1887 over fifty thousand additional bricks were sent to Old Town where they were used to line wells in Mission Valley. Despite the production capacity of the Coronado and other brickyards, the large demand for bricks in and around San Diego resulted in a major brick shortage. By 1887 small-scale residential builders practically begged for enough bricks to complete foundations, fireplaces and chimneys.28

Bradbury D. Day and John W. Read hoped to break that brick shortage by producing over a million bricks from their kiln at 23rd and K Streets. However, before production got underway, the property’s owner demanded that Day purchase the property outright.29 Due to the transitory nature of late 19th century brick making, this was naturally out of the question. Day and Read had no intention of buying land that may or may not have enough good brick-producing clay on it to last a few seasons.

Because bricks were a low-cost, high-bulk product, in order for a brickyard to stay competitive, the mining, mixing and firing of clay into bricks was often done at one location, usually on the periphery of a town with easy access to roads and rail lines. As the clay deposits were used up, brick makers would disassemble their kilns and relocate to another site. In addition, many brickyards were overrun by the spread of urban centers that they had helped make possible.30

Because of the transitory nature of brick making operations, one of the most common methods used to burn brick was the use of a temporary kiln made out of the bricks themseves. Know as a “scove kiln,” thousands of green bricks would be piled up in a massive forty-foot high trapezoidal form. After the bricks were set, the walls and roof were contained by fired bricks. The entire structure was then plastered over with wet clay mixed with straw. Wood, charcoal, coal or oil fired burners were started in several corbeled tunnels criss-crossing the base of the pile. During the later stages of burning, stones or iron grates were placed in front of the tunnel openings to regulate the draught. As the hot gasses went from the tunnels to passageways throughout the structure, they fired the bricks. Often, the entire pile of bricks glowed red-hot for days. Chinks left at the top allowed waste gases and water vapor to escape.31

After cooling down for several days the kiln was disassembled. Bricks nearest the heat source tended to be over-fired, while those nearest the outside walls were usually under-fired. These were placed in the next firing, while the over-fired bricks were often used as decorative brick or pulverized for use in roadways. Scove kilns allowed brick makers to exploit clay deposits without the expense of building permanent kilns. As urban development reached the site of these kilns, the entire operation could be relocated near another source of raw clay without the expense of disassembling and reassembling a fixed kiln.32

In response to the property owner’s demands, Bradbury D. Day began negotiations with the Board of Trustees of the City of San Diego (of which, curiously enough, James McCoy was a member) to lease land for a brickyard within the boundaries of the City Park, near an abandoned water works site.33 The yard was located at the head of 11th Street, west of the Old Russ Schoolhouse at the southern entrance to what is now Cabrillo Canyon.34 The site now lies within the southwestern corner of Balboa Park, north of A Street between 11th and 12th streets, at the southern entrance to the Cabrillo Freeway.35

The terms and conditions fixed in the resolution allowed Day to pay the city fifteen cents per one thousand bricks for the privilege to mine and produce clay for brick within the park.36 All grading operations in the park were to be monitored by the City Trustees who hoped to save the city from allocating funds for that purpose in the future. Also, clay and waste materials, such as crushed rejected bricks, were to be used in the filling of certain places in a washed-out ravine in the vicinity of the brickyard.37

Brick making operations began at the City Park site on June 1, 1885. Breaking with tradition, Day chose to use Anglo instead of Chinese laborers, thinking that the former were more efficient. By July, a kiln containing 140,000 bricks had been erected and fired, taking five days to burn. Due to the increasing demand for brick, all of these had already been sold even before they had a chance to cool. Read and Day were lucky enough to find another seam of high-quality clay at the park site and began to expand their operations.38

Newspaper articles describing Day and Read’s activities began to refer to the new brickyard as the “Park Brickyard.”39 The July 23, 1885 issue of the San Diego Union listed the following advertisement:

Brick! Brick! Brick! at the Park Brick Yard. B. D. Day is prepared to furnish FIRST CLASS BRICK in quantities at BED ROCK PRICES. Brick yard located at head of Eleventh street, west of Russ school. All contemplating using brick in the erection of buildings can not do better than to call on me.40

By October 1885, Day and Read were ready to burn a new kiln containing over two hundred thousand bricks.41 The two had proposed to fire another kiln of three hundred thousand bricks in two months, but were again running into problems over their lease arrangements. By allegedly not making their payments to the City Board of Trustees that September, they were in violation of their lease agreement, and were threatened with losing their right to operate the brickyard on City park land.42

However, by December their problems were apparently behind them, because newspaper accounts stated that a new kiln of over two and half million bricks had been fired at the Park Brick Yard. When the bricks were cool enough to handle, there would be enough fired brick on hand for contractors to proceed with work delayed by a lack of construction-grade brick.43

In 1886 John W. Read bought controlling interest in the Park Brick Yard Company from Day with the help of $25,000 from his new partners, real estate investors Thomas E. Metcalf and David P. Hale. The new company proposed to manufacture at least four million bricks in order to stem the continuing shortage of brick in San Diego.44 The capability to manufacture fired brick in the millions made the Park Brick Yard Company one of the three largest brick yards in San Diego, rivaling those of both the Coronado and Bowman brick companies in production.45

During the mid to late-1880s, Metcalf and Hale were involved in various real estate schemes throughout San Diego County. The most ambitious of these was the laying out of the town of Escondido. Both men were associated with the Escondido and San Marcos Land & Town Companies. While both companies had their main offices in San Diego, their purpose was to develop and sell land in the northern inland valleys of Escondido and San Marcos.46

In order to foster growth in these new towns, Metcalf and Hale asked John Read to locate a brickyard nearby. On June 1, 1885, at the western end of the Escondido town site, Read discovered an exposed bed of clay along the banks of the Escondido River.47 While his former partner Bradbury D. Day may have held reservations against hiring Chinese laborers, Read did not, hiring around twenty-five Chinese to dig, carry, mix, and shape clay into bricks for firing at the kiln. During its first days of operation, two hundred thousand bricks were fired. Most of these, and thousands more, went into the building of the Escondido Hotel and a local seminary, as well as banks, schools, churches and several residences.48

After leaving the operations of the Escondido Brickyard in the hands of a subordinate, in 1887 Read returned to San Diego where he resumed management of the Park Brick Yard Company.49 It was during this time that bricks from the Park Brick Yard Company’s yard could have been incorporated by Wright and his partner Wells into the James McCoy house in Old Town. Whether or not McCoy was intimate with Read during his or his former partner Day’s appearances before the City Board of Trustees is unknown.

Records indicate that the Park Brick Yard Company went out of business with the collapse of the building boom in late 1888. At this time San Diego’s speculative real estate market bubble began to deflate as people realized that, while the region had a lovely climate, there was not enough arable land or natural resources for them to exploit. By 1889, people were leaving in droves, driving San Diego’s population down from over 40,000 to less than 17,000.50

Despite its short period of operation, 1885 to 1888, the Park Brick Yard Company was a major factor in the building of San Diego urban landscape during the late Victorian era. In addition to the 1887 remodeling of the McCoy House, three other historic structures built during that time have been identified with being made of bricks coming from the Park Brick Yard Company.

The first of these is one of the premier landmarks of San Diego’s Gilded Age, the Villa Montezuma. Located at 1925 K Street, the Villa Montezuma was designed in 1887 by noted San Diego architects N. A. Comstock and Carl Trotsche for local celebrity and mystic Jesse Francis Shepard.51 During reconstruction work undertaken by the San Diego History Center at the Villa Montezuma during the 1970s and 1980s, several bricks were uncovered that bore the “PBYCo” brand.52

Two other surviving historic Victorian era landmarks located in downtown San Diego have been identified as containing PBYCo bricks. In 1985, in order to make way for the Horton Plaza development in downtown San Diego’s Gaslamp District, both the Grand Hotel and the nearby Brooklyn Hotel were completely disassembled, their component parts painstakingly numbered, cataloged, and stored in local warehouses. They were later reassembled on the southwest corner of 4th Avenue and Island Street into an entirely new hotel — the Horton Grand Hotel. An interview with the architect in charge of the reconstruction, Milford Wayne Donaldson, A.I.A., revealed that thousands of the orange-red bricks from both hotels were branded “PBYCo.”53

Both the Brooklyn and Grand Hotels were originally built between 1886 and 1887, respectively. While the designer and builder of the Brooklyn Hotel is unknown, the designers of the Villa Montezuma, Comstock and Trotsche, were responsible for the Grand Hotel.54 Comstock and Trotsche’s use of the bricks in two of their commissions leads to the speculation that their other works might also have contained PBYCo products.55 Unfortunately, many of these buildings have been demolished and we may never know if any of the surviving ones contain PBYCo bricks.

One of the most productive industries in San Diego during the late 19th century, the Park Brick Yard Company contributed greatly to San Diego’s built environment. The company was part of a wave of local brick manufacturers who responded to the demands of San Diego’s building boom of the mid-1880s. Surviving bricks with the “PBYCo” brand should be regarded as artifacts of San Diego’s late 19th century manufacturing, building and architectural heritage.



1. Henry G. Hanks, Fourth Annual Report of the State Mineralogist for the Year Ending May 15, 1884 (Sacramento: California State Mining Bureau, 1884), 144; quoted in Karl Gurke, Bricks and Brickmaking: a Handbook for Historical Archaeology (University of Idaho Press, Moscow, Idaho, 1987), 1.

2. Gurke, Bricks and Brickmaking, xi.

3. Ibid., 98-99, 120.

4. Kathleen E. Davis, Old Town San Diego State Historic Park Old Town Light Rail Transit Extension: Phase I Historical Background (Sacramento: California Department of Parks and Recreation Resource Protection Division, 5 May 1992), 24.

5. San Diego Union, 28 July 1969, 3.

6. Davis, Old Town San Diego, 30.

7. Ibid., 25-29.

8. Thomas Wheeler (1993), 1, 4, 18.

9. David L. Felton, Archaeological Test Excavations at the James McCoy House Site, Old Town San Diego State Historic Park (Sacramento: California Department of Parks and Recreation, 1992, revised Reconstruction Archaeology at the McCoy House Site, Old Town San Diego SHP: a Status Report on Design Development Phase Investigations (Sacramento: Department of Parks and Recreation, 1995), 12; and Kathleen E. Davis and David L. Felton, Old Town San Diego State Historic Park, Entrance Redevelopment Project, Historic Study Report and Historic Architectural Survey Report (Sacramento: Department of Parks and Recreation, 1996), 18-19.

10. Felton, Archaeological Test Excavations, 12.

11. County of San Diego, Office of the County Recorder, Index to Bids & Contracts, Contract No. 86, 1 April 1887, 162.

12. Great Register of San Diego County (Voters), 1885-88, n.p. Copies on file at the San Diego History Center Archives and Research Library and the California Room of the San Diego Public Library.

13. Ibid.; San Diego City and County Business Directories, 1886-90.

14. R. P. Middlebrook, “The High Iron to La Jolla,” San Diego Historical Society Quarterly 7 (June 1961): 1. By 1887 the tracks of the San Diego & Old Town Railway reached from downtown San Diego, up through Middletown to the plaza at Old Town San Diego, just one block east of the McCoy House. In addition, a few blocks south of the McCoy House were the tracks of the California Southern Railroad, which erected a depot at Old Town in 1884. See Lee Gustafson and Phil Serpico, Santa Fe Coast Line Depots: Los Angeles Division (Onmi Publications, Palmdale, California, 1992), 207.

15. During this time San Diego County also included present-day Imperial and Riverside Counties. Curtis M. Brown and Michael J. Pallamary, History of San Diego County Land Surveying Experiences (Authors, San Diego [?], 1988), 2-3.

16. San Diego Union 15 May 1885, 3 and 27 May 1885, 3; Gustafson and Serpico, Santa Fe Coast Line Depots, 207.

17. Great Register, 1888-92, n.p.; San Diego Union, 15 May 1885, 3 and 27 May 1885, 3.

18. San Diego Union, 15 May 1885, 3.

19. I. E. Quastler, “Transportation in San Diego County,” in San Diego: an Introduction to the Region, Philip R. Pryde, ed. (Kendall/Hunt Publishing Company, Dubuque, Iowa), 176-77; Clare B. Crane, “Jesse Shepard and the Villa Montezuma,” unpublished manuscript on file at the San Diego History Center Research Library, 1970, 3; Gustafson and Serpico, Santa Fe Coast Line Depots, 161.

20. Quastler, “Transportation in San Diego County,” 176; Richard Longstreth, The Buildings of Main Street: a Guide to American Commercial Architecture (The Preservation Press, Washington, D.C., 1987), 15.

21. San Diego Union, 13 June 1888, 5; Business Directories, 1886-88.

22. San Diego Union, 13 June 1888, 5; Richard F. Pourade, The Glory Years (The History of San Diego Series, The Union-Tribune Publishing Company, San Diego, 1964), 159; Judith Liu, “Birds of Passage: Chinese Occupations in San Diego, 1870-1900,” Gum Saan Journal10 (June 1977): 7.

23. San Diego Union, 13 June 1888, 5.

24. Gurke, Bricks and Brickmaking, 87; and Robert W. Richards, “Brick Manufacturing from Past to Present,” American Ceramic Society Bulletin (May 1990): 808.

25. Richards, “Brick Manufacturing,” 808. Today stiff-mud extrusion, a process by which a long ribbon of stiff, wet clay is pushed through a die and cut by powered blades, is the primary method for producing brick. Another means of producing shaped brick, known as the “soft or wet-mud” process, which forces plastic clay mud out of the bottom of a “pug mill” into shaped molds, is the second most-used brick making technique. Dry-pressed brick making is now limited to the manufacture of refractory brick, floor tile, and specialty ceramics. Only a few pressed brick plants currently operate in this country.

26. San Diego Union, 13 June 1888, 5. As a means of cost comparison, the wholesale price of locally made common bricks sold in San Francisco in 1850 cost between $30-$32 per thousand for first quality bricks, $23-$25 per thousand for second-quality bricks. Imported common bricks were much higher: Eastern common ran between $34-$40 per thousand; and French common at $30-$32 per thousand. With the introduction of more sophisticated brick making machines and techniques to California, by 1880, the J. Davie brickyard in Napa, was able to sell common bricks for $10-$12 a thousand. See Gurke, Bricks and Brickmaking, 43-44, 47.

27. San Diego Union, 13 June 1888, 5. The firing and care of the kiln was a very critical factor in the production of brick. Everything depended upon the proper burning of the brick–too much or too little heat could damage or ruin the entire work. Prior to the introduction of fuel oil, coal was used in the brick kilns. The method of firing brick pioneered by the Coronado Brick Company consisted of using two iron tubes, one within the other, in the burning process. While one tube issued a flow of ignited petroleum, the other vented a powerful jet of steam, forcing the hot gases into crevices throughout the entire kiln. The results were said to have been remarkably successful, producing an evenness of temperature and control not attained by using coal, lowering fuel costs by at least 50 percent.

28. San Diego Union, 1 September 1887, 3 and 13 June 1888, 5.

29. Ibid., 27 May 1885, 3.

30. Richard P. Phillips, “Natural Resources of San Diego County,” in San Diego: an Introduction to the Region, 17.

31. Gurke, Bricks and Brickmaking, 29; Daniel Rhodes, Kilns: Design, Construction, and Operation, (Philadephia: Chilton Book Company, 1968), 44-45; John Rice, interview by author, 1993. A third generation brick maker (his grandfather was one of the co-founders of Union Brick Company in 1904), John Rice stated that scove kilns were the primary method for firing brick at his grandfather’s brickyard in Rose Canyon from 1911 until its closing in the 1950s.

32. Rhodes, Kilns, 45; Rice, interview. Because the entire subsoil of the coastal marine terrace of San Diego County is composed primarily of sandy to all-clay subsoil over an iron-silica hardpan, brick making activities could be done practically anywhere. See: David S. McArthur, “Geomorphology of San Diego County,” in San Diego: An Introduction to the Region, 17.

34. C. B. Wadleigh, Wadleigh’s Map of San Diego (Los Angeles: Los Angeles Lithographic Company, 1881). Copy on file at the San Diego Historical Society Research Archives; Herbert G. Hensley, map of City Park in “Byways of Old City Park,” San Diego History Center Quarterly 1 (1955): 36.

35. San Diego Union, 23 July 1885, 2; and Pourade, 108.

36. Minutes of the Board of Trustees, 63; San Diego Union, 26 May 1885, 3.

37. Minutes of the Board of Trustees, 63; San Diego Union, 27 May 1885, 3.

38. Ibid.

39. Ibid.

40. Ibid., 23 July 1885, 2.

41. Ibid., 17 October 1885, 3.

42. Ibid., 8 September 1885, 3; 8 December 1885, 3.

43. Ibid., 12 December 1885, 3.

44. Ibid., 7 March 1886, 1; 8 April 1886, 3.

45. Ibid., 15 May 1887, 3. The brickyard and kilns of Albert Bowman were located north of Juniper Street in San Diego. Besides these three large operations, there were several smaller to medium brick making operations in operation throughout San Diego County during this time. See Leland E. Bibb, “Edmund M. Rankin and the Brickmaking Industry in San Diego” [unpublished report], 4. Copy on file at the California Department of Parks and Recreation, San Diego Coast District; Business Directories, 1886-90.

46. Business Directories, 1886-90; and Frances Beven Ryan, Early Days in Escondido (Author: Escondido, 1970), 43.

47. San Diego Union, 2 June 1885, 3; 30 January 1886, 3.

48. Ryan, Early Days, 50, 66; Richard T. Ruane, “Chinese Did Their Part in Building Escondido,” San Diego Union, 1977, n.p. Copy on file at the Pioneer Room, Escondido Public Library: San Diego Union, 7 March 1886, 1; 7 May 3. Read may have had a part in having his ex-partner Bradbury D. Day secure a contract as one of the building contractors involved in the building of the all brick Escondido Seminary building. See Index to Bids and Contracts, Contract No. 127, 1 September 1887, 162.

49. Business Directories, 1887-88.

50. Ibid., 1888-90.

51. William H. Porter, A.I.A., “Architectural Notes,” in Villa Montezuma, Historic American Buildings Survey, CAL-432, 1964, 1-2. Report on file at the San Diego History Center Research Archives.

52. Lucinda Eddy, San Diego History Center, interview with author, 1995.

53. Milford Wayne Donaldson, interview with author, 1995.

54. City of San Diego, San Diego Historical Site Board, Site No. 54: The Brooklyn Hotel (Kahle’s Saddlery), n.d.; and Site No. 95: Hotel Horton-Grand Block, n.d. Both reports are on file at the San Diego Historical Society Research Archives.

55. Crane, “Jesse Shepard and the Villa Montezuma,” 4, note 6. Comstock and Trotsche’s work included the design of several office buildings, the expansion of the original San Diego Court House building, a Unitarian Church, as well as the Middletown, Russ and Sherman Heights school buildings.


Alexander D. Bevil has written several articles for the Journal of San Diego History regarding San Diego’s architectural history. Mr. Bevil works as a park interpretive specialist for the California Department of Parks & Recreation, and as an independent contract historian, specializing in historic building surveys. He also teaches San Diego history at the Mason Street Schoolhouse in Old Town, through the San Diego Community College District.