7. Livermore's First Non-agricultural Industry

(With the last installment, the reader was left to learn what happened to the balance remaining in the 1906 Earthquake Relief Fund...... )

In the summer of 1908, a group of local businessmen discussed a proposition to establish Livermore's first non-agricultural industry - a fire-brick and terra cotta plant. The proposal was contingent on a donation of five acres on the west side of town between the Southern Pacific and Western Pacific railroad tracks. The company promised that no cottages, bunk-houses or company store would be maintained so that employees would be obliged to live and trade in town.

At a second meeting, the businessmen felt it expedient to have additional property, and placed an option on an adjoining ten acres. To purchase the tract, each businessman subscribed a varying amount of money, committing a total of $2650, and the developers of the fire-brick plant, seeing the earnestness of the community, offered to pay $1000 for the five acres of the proposed location. The question was then asked, "Why not use the remainder of the 'Earthquake Fund' for the community's share of the land purchase?" And the Town Trustees concurred. They agreed to give the fire-brick company a deed to the ten acres on which the plant was to be located when the works had been in continuous operation for one year, and it was to revert to the town if it was ever used for other than manufacturing.

The Livermore Fire Brick Company began its operations in 1910, using clay from Ione, pending the development of a local clay deposit. The Livermore Herald called it "the beginning of an industry which is destined to wax with the passing years until Livermore is the center of the clay manufacturing industry of the State." The first carload of brick was shipped to Sacramento. In 1911, the brick works was shipping its product to Matzatlan, Mexico, to Agnew Hardware in Everett, Washington and to Theo Davis and Co., Honolulu.

In 1914, the Livermore Fire Brick Company began experimenting with brick made of diatomaceous earth. Although the same size as a conventional brick, it weighed but one-fifth as much. It was used as lining in large commercial refrigerators, such as in breweries and meat markets, taking the place of cork which was becoming scarcer and more expensive every year.

A source of fire brick clay was never found locally. Operations became intermittent, based on demand. When business was good, the plant employed between 30 and 40 men. And in these times, large shipments were made: 40,000 fire brick went to the Philippines in June, 1932, 32,000 more in July, and another 30,000 the next month, along with 10,000 fire tiles consigned to Hilo, Hawaii. Meantime, the plant went through several hands. It was rumored that the facility would be dismantled in 1936 while it was being managed by the W. S. Dickey Clay Manufacturing Company. Instead, it was sold to the Stockton Fire Brick Company, and later purchased by Gladding, McBean and Company.

The end of Livermore's first non-agricultural industry came in the spring of 1949 when the fire-brick plant was finally closed down permanently. Where was it located?- across the street from Valley Memorial Hospital on Stanley Boulevard. That's why the center there is called the Brickyard Shopping Center.



June 29, 1999