Effort underway to save Brickyard Cove’s historic kilns and chimney

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Effort underway to save Brickyard Cove’s historic kilns and chimney
Brickyard Landing Brick Kiln (Photo courtesy of Page & Turnbull)

By Mike Kinney and Kathy Chouteau

The Brickyard Landing Homeowners Association is proposing a plan to stabilize and preserve Brickyard Cove’s historic kilns and chimney.

The structures, located onsite at the condos at 1223 Brickyard Cove Ln. in Richmond, are in dire need of stabilization, including masonry repairs and seismic retrofitting, according to the homeowners association.

The association hired architecture, design, planning and preservation firm Page & Turnbull to inspect the site and present possible solutions. The Page & Turnbull report states the 1907-built chimney and two kilns are “in poor condition.” Given its height, the 72-foot-tall chimney is vulnerable to collapse in the event of major wind and seismic events, the report states.

“We recommend the installation of additional signage communicating the hazard be added to the existing fencing restricting access to the area around the structures,” the report states.

The report presents options based on the “significance and necessity of repairs” to circumvent demolition of the structures. One option recommended by Page & Turnbull would deconstruct the chimney to half its size, and salvage existing bricks and store them on site for a later reconstruction. The cost for that work is estimated at about $100,000, while the cost to maintain the chimney’s height while ensuring it is structurally safe would more than double, according to Michael Carnall, former board member of the Brickyard Landing Homeowners Association who presented the options to the Richmond Historic Preservation Commission on Tuesday.

Brickyard Landing Brick Kiln (Photo courtesy of Page & Turnbull)

Carnall added that the cost to rehabilitate and preserve the unique historic kilns, which he says will be tougher to save, may exceed the proposed $15,000. He also noted the importance of maintaining the iron tension traps around the two domes, as that’s what’s holding them together.

Mayor Tom Butt expressed support for preserving the historic structures. 

“Where historical property is concerned there is an obligation to preserve it from demolition by neglect,” Mayor Butt said. “I am all for preserving any physical remnants of our history here in Richmond.”

The historical significance of the Brickyard Cove kilns and chimney trace back to the Los Angeles Pressed Brick Company (LAPBC), a major SoCal brick manufacturer that founded a plant in the early 1900s at the site of the former Remillard Potrero brickyard in Richmond, according to the Page & Turnbull report. From there, the Richmond Pressed Brick Company—an offshoot of LABC—incorporated in 1920 and operated on the site until 1966, when it closed due to decreasing demand for bricks.

The Brickyard Cove condos were built in the 1980s, with only one chimney and two downdraft—or “beehive”—kilns remaining from the original brickyard.

During its heyday, the Richmond brickyard supplied bricks for many notable buildings in the Bay Area, including San Francisco’s Palace Hotel and parts of Standard Oil’s first California refinery.

View of the Richmond Pressed Brick Company Plant. From Architect and Engineer, 1929