Friday, September 4, 2009

Grand Ledge Face Brick Co. 1914-1947

The third and final clay factory to form in Grand Ledge was the Baker Clay Company begun in 1914. Mr Baker was from Ohio, but recruited local businessmen to fund the enterprise.

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The company purchased 50 acres of land from the John Walker farm at the corner of West Main and Tallman Road. A lane at the corner wound back along the river by the dam and continued on to the factory behind the farm. At the other end of the farm, a rail line was laid along the county line to reach the plant. The clay pit was located just beyond the dam, right across the river from the quarries of American Vitrified and Clay Products.

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The plant featured a new kiln design called a “continuous kiln”. The first of its kind built in the United States; it was based on a Canadian design. Unlike the bee-hive style, this design featured a series of tunnel kilns built adjoining side-by-side. This allowed heat from one kiln to be used to preheat the next adjoining kiln. It was found to be a more efficient and cost effective.

Baker Clay was founded to produce glazed tile for farm silos. Many silos in Michigan and Ohio were made from these tiles. Examples can still be seen in the area. The Wynalda farm on Saginaw has a beautiful example. Another silo can be seen on Saginaw across from A & W. However cement silos replaced the tiles in popularity.

The plant soon switched to brick production and became The Grand Ledge Face Brick Company. Although their product was excellent, financing always seemed a problem for the firm and some years saw little production. Eventually the factory was sold to one of its major clients, the Briggs Company in Lansing. Many may well remember the company’s headquarters on Michigan Avenue in downtown Lansing. Located where Museum Drive is today, the tall building was built of Grand Ledge brick and had BRIGGS in tall brickwork in the fa├žade. An additional 40 acres was purchased adjoining the plant in Clinton County for future expansion, although this never materialized.

In the mid-1940s the plant was sold to the Lincoln Brick Company who quickly closed the factory in 1947 to consolidate production in their Grand Rapids location. The factory lay idle and eventually the 90 acre parcel was sold to Eaton County in 1975 and is now the site of Lincoln Brick Park.

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Grand Ledge Face Brick produced bricks of high quality and wide variety. Bricks were available in finishes from smooth to rough and from light tan to deep rich reds. Grand Ledge Brick was shipped far and wide. Many buildings at MSU were built using them, including Beaumont Tower. Our own important City buildings used our local bricks. The original Grand Ledge Library, The Grand Ledge Post Office, Grand Ledge City Hall (built as the Catholic Church) and Sawdon School all use the local bricks. Sawdon is made from a blend of bricks called "Old Rose Mission" that was extremely popular. Local bricks can sometimes be identified from behind as the back of the brick was often impressed with “GRAND LEDGE”.

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1 comment:

  1. The company purchased 50 acres of land from the John Walker farm at the corner of West Main and Tallman Road this is biggest area that's mean this company have a lot of money.

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