The Clay Industry in South St. Louis

Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps, St. Louis, Missouri, 1903 July, Sheet 108

The busy, and I would say, extremely hectic, intersection of Gravois and Chippewa once was home to one of the Hydraulic Press Brick Company’s brick yards, which you can see above in this Sanborn Map from 1903. I think what is also fascinating is how absolutely deserted the area was around the factory back at the turn of the Twentieth Century, as well.

William Swekosky, Unidentified Brickyard with Kiln in the Background, Missouri History Museum, N08011

While these photographs, at unidentified locations, are not necessarily at this particular brickyard, they give us an idea of what the brick and terracotta industry looked like in St. Louis.

Emptying the Kiln, 1905, Library of Congress, 2004681993

The ovens must have been something else to enter, right after being heated to extreme temperatures. The coal was mined right under the hills of St. Louis, along with the clay. Very convenient.

Storage Yards of a Tile Factory, C. September 29, 1905, Library of Congress, 2005677976

But what I really enjoyed were the pictures above and below; look at the size of those pipes!

Tiles Just from Moulds, Ready for Kiln, C. September 29, 1905, Library of Congress, Storage Yards of a Tile Factory, C. September 29, 1905, Library of Congress, 2005677974

All sorts of ancillary businesses popped as well around the clay mines.

Sanborn Fire Insurance Map, St. Louis, Missouri, 1903 July, Sheet 110

Nearby, east on Chippewa was this little flower pot factory.

7 Comments Add yours

  1. Stephen Slattery says:

    Hello Chris, very much enjoyed the pics of the clay kilns and workmen. Recently returned to visiting your website. A couple of years ago, I made a request if you’d look at my old neigbor hood-Pine Lawn. Iconic places there include Goody Goody restaurant , St Paul the Apostle Church and school . we resided on 3914 Phibrook . Family moved to U.City in 1965( I was 8 years old). Again, love your work Sincerely, Steve

    1. Chris Naffziger says:

      Hmm, I don’t think I remember that, but I can certainly check those out if I’m in the area.

  2. W. White says:

    I felt that “Brick by Brick: Building St. Louis and the Nation, April 15 July 31, 2004” organized by Samuel Cupples House at Saint Louis University was a good introduction to the topic of the brickmaking and brick building in the city. A book length examination, instead of the relatively short exhibition catalogue, would be nice to have.

    1. Chris Naffziger says:

      I missed that exhibit because I was still living in Washington, DC, at the time.

      1. Mary Ruby says:

        Greetings random internet person, I have lived in this neighborhood for about 35 years, on and off but have owned a home here for 20 years near this site. I cant plant anything in the ground it is solid clay here, but I like living here the area has a very interesting history. Besides the clay and also coal mines, (there were over twenty of them just in my neighborhood) there was a French Socialist commune here at one time too. They originated from Navoo, Illinois and were called Icarians. They followed a philosopher named Etienne Cabet.
        More on Terra Cotta clay factory in Cheltenham

  3. Tim Long says:

    I worked at a company that made clay tile pipe in 1972 in Pittsburg , Ks. When a kiln is opened the heat coming out of it will set heavy duty work gloves on fire. very hard and dirty job.

    1. Chris Naffziger says:

      Wow, that’s amazing!

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