Each type of our Jamestown bricks is part of the rich history of the city, since they come right from the local buildings, streets, and sidewalks. Jamestown currently has more than 50 miles of exposed red brick streets. These bricks were laid in the early 20th century, and have proven to stand the test of time. Every brick laid in the city of Jamestown during the early 1900’s was locally made at Jamestown Shale Paving Brick Company, founded in 1893 by Judge Jerome B. Fisher. At the end of the 1800’s the bricks were still being made with clay.
As bricks began to be made with shale in the very early 1900’s, East Jamestown became a perfect location since the shale supply was rich in both quality and quantity. It was said to have qualities that could not be found in shale anywhere else in the country, allowing for one of the strongest bricks manufactured at the time. At its peak, Jamestown Shale Paving Brick Co. produced 15 million bricks a year (over 135 tons a day). This great supply of shale, along with its close proximity to the railroad, were two key elements that allowed this Jamestown company to thrive for many years. The company closed down briefly during World War I due to labor shortages, but was reopened not long after in order to create jobs for returning soldiers. The company was purchased by the Broadhead family around 1920 and remained under their ownership until it closed for good in 1935 due to the deterioration of the kilns and machinery.
Jamestown has earned the nickname “The Flats” because of the extensive amount of shale mining that has taken place there over the last century, leaving much of the landscape considerably flat. The process that went into making these bricks at the beginning of the 20th century was quite extensive. First, a charge of dynamite would be detonated in an enormous shale quarry, breaking the shale into millions of pieces. Workers then shoveled these pieces onto a large pan, where a 4800-pound roller would crush them into a powder. The powder is then put through a system of sieves, or sifters, that filter out unwanted material. The remaining powder is mixed with water and molded into a very long brick bar. A machine, with knives working automatically, cuts the bar into proper sized bricks. The bricks are now ready to be put into the dry kiln, followed by the burning kiln. Once finished in the burning kiln, the brick is ready to be loaded and shipped out to the customer. This is a much more grueling process than that which goes into the production of bricks today. These bricks are truly unique.