Sunday, October 12, 2014

Who Knew #10 Simons Brick Company #3

In 1886, Reuben and Melissa Simons and their six children left Hamburg, Iowa, for Los Angeles, California. Reuben was a brickmaker, born in England in 1836, and had immigrated to the United States in 1866. Reuben and his teenage sons, Joseph, Elmer, and Walter, located a clay deposit in the southern part of Pasadena, where they opened their first brickyard. In 1900, the Simons Brick Company was incorporated with a capital stock of $100,000. Joseph Simons was president, Elmer Simons was secretary and treasurer, and Walter R. Simons was vice-president. The Pasadena brickyard was a great success and soon the Simons sons were eager to expand their brick manufacturing business to other areas. The Simons opened a total of 8 brickyards but brickyard #3 (present day Montebello/Commerce) was known as the largest brickyard in the world

Simons Brick Company Plant in Pasadena

In 1905, Simons Brick Company Plant Number 3 was built on property that was formerly a Mexican land grant, Rancho Laguna. They purchased 273 acres of land for their new clay pit and brick plant, which was named the Number 3 Yard.  Walter Simmons was the leader of this brick company as other family members had expanded through out Los Angeles County in Boyle Heights and in Santa Monica. This yard was on the northeast corner of the intersection of Vail Avenue and the Santa Fe Railroad. The plant office was on Rivera Street. Its general boundaries were Vail Avenue on the northwest, Greenwood Avenue on the southeast, the Santa Fe rail line on the southwest, and Date Street on the northeast
Simons Brick Company in Santa Monica (1939)

During the 1906 San Francisco earthqauke, the Simon Brick Company shipped out a lot of bricks to construct the destroyed city.

Aeriel view of the Simons Brick Company #3. Picture taken in 1924.

The company started with around 500 workers and grew within time. When several of the workers asked for local living arrangements, the company erected two large boarding houses for the single men and two- to four-bedroom homes for families, all rented at $1 a day. By 1925, Simons grew to a population of about 1,600, mostly of Mexican immigrants.

Simons Brick Company Plant #3 Largest Brick Yard in the world Montebello/Commerce

The Simons Brick Company not only became a business but its own town, it had its own lighting system, water works, and sewage disposal system. There was a depot, a general store, a postoffice, a church, a grade school with five teachers, a motion picture and amusement hall, an auto repair garage, a recreation field, and a handball court. The most intriguing was that they had their own baseball team which was composed of company workers and played in a league.

Simons Brick Company Baseball Team

The demand for building bricks waned after World War II as concrete was replacing brick as the preferred structural building material. The Simons Brick Company began to shut down the brickyard in 1947. In May 1952, the yard was condemned and the workers were forced to move from Simons. Acting as a guardian for her ailing husband, Mrs. Edith Simons gave $6,000 from their estate to each of the 19 remaining families to help them move out of Simons.

What's Left

There's really not much left other that memories and told stories by those who were members of this community. After the yard was condemned the Simon's sold everything to industrial developers. If you go on the 5 freeway, A Simons marker can be seen on the southbound Interstate 5 Freeway from the Washington Boulevard on-ramp on what is known as the Simon's Underpass. There are many business around the LA county area that might still have some bricks that were made by the Simons Brick Company Plant 3!

A Simons brick, not all bricks have the Simons name
Interesting Videos

Great Documentary on the Simons Brick Company

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