Craycroft Brick Co - A Fresno Pioneer CJ & Kenneth Craycroft
Kenneth Craycroft Craycroft Brick -A Fresno Pioneer THE RED, BUFF and rose piles of brick and tile the yawning storage yards appear to spring up almost wild flowers, only to suddenly disappear to become part new buildings being erected throughout the San Joaquin Valley. This is the ever-changing pattern at the Craycroft Co. at 2301 W. Belmont Ave., founded at 2550 S. Railroad Ave. in 1887 by C. J. Craycroft, and today owned and operated by Kenneth T. Craycroft, Craycroft, the grandson, and his sister, Mrs. Parker Davies Trask. In all the years the plant made only two moves--the first to the southeast corner corner of Orange and Jensen Avenues, and the last, in 1910, to the present lOOacre Belmont site next to the picturesque Chinese' Cemetery. Cemetery. Some of the structures still being used at the plant today were built by the founder, founder, their red bricks as sturdy sturdy as the day they came out of the kiln a half-century half-century ago. Some of the old buildings razed in Fresno during the past decade were built of Craycroft brick, including additions to the old Fresno County Courthouse. Kenneth Craycroft says it is ironic, some of the bricks his grandfather made and sold for $10 a thousand in 1887 he has bought back for $65 to thousand for resale as used brick to home owners and builders). WHETHER IT IS discussing the Fresno area or his plant, there is a touch of pride in Craycroft's voice. speaks fondly of the city's downtown malls, Manchester Shopping Center and Valley Children's Hospital, for which served on the board of directors for six years and as president in 1961 and 1962. The history of the 82-year-old, family - owned plant be traced in its machinery yard where some of its equipment, like the proverbial horse, has been turned pasture. There is, for instance, an old iron-tired horse-drawn dray wagon used during the plant's earliest years; and in usuable condition is the old road grader designed to drawn by four horses. In the machine shop is the forge anvil used*to shoe draft horses which made two trips between the plant and downtown Fresno, hauling bricks during those early years. A couple of 1911 Mack Bulldog dump trucks of the rubber tire variety are in surprisingly good repair and have most of their original equipment. But the real scene-stealer is the Marion oil-fired shovel, circa 1915, which was once the darling of Fresno sidewalk superintendents who watched it creak and groan huff and puff as it excavated for such skyscrapers as Security First National Bank, the Bank of America, and the Guarantee Savings and Loan Buildings along Street. AND STILL MORE of Fresno's history Is recorded Iron building plaque dating back to 1895 which is kept one of the firm's storage buildings -- it lists the F City Board of Trustees (mayor and council equivalent in that day), and C. J. Craycroft's name appears as the president. (He is recognized as mayor of Fresno from 1895 1901). The founding Craycroft came to the Panoche Valley, of Coalinga, in 1880, running a small band of sheep and hunting deer, quail and dove which he sold to area grocery stores. In 1882 he moved into Fresno and for a time the old Fresno House, a wooden hotel and rooming Tulare and M Streets. In 1887. calling on his brickmaking experience In his native Illinois, and utilizing brickmaking equipment manufactured manufactured by an uncle in the midwest, he opened Fresno's brick manufacturing plant. A few years later he was In the firm by his son, Frank Joel, who succeeded to presidency of the firm on his death in 1915. Frank operated the business until his death in 1929 which time his widow, Mae, assumed the position of president. She was succeeded by Kenneth on her death in The 82-year-old concern will reach another milestone summer when Gary Joel, the 24-year-old son of Kenneth, presently a Naval communication's officer on a destroyer the coast of Vietnam, will officially come into the business as an associate. The brick works is a substantial business enterprise, employing 50 persons the year around. It makes U types products -- common brick, face brick, fire brick, hollow tile, roofing tile, drain tile, patio tile, crushed brick, fire clay, sewer pipe and flue lining. In effect, the Craycroft plant is merely continuing a process which began some 6,000 years ago. Early civilizations in Mesopotamia, for instance, made bricks from clay, . them in the heat of the midday sun and built structures which have endured through the ages. With the addition automation and manufacturing techniques, wider color selections are available today and the quality of the bricks been enhanced through more sophisticated kiln developments. developments. THE RAW MATERIAL used as the base in most Craycroft products is found in a narrow strip of land between the Southern Pacific railroad tracks and Belmont Avenue where the plant is located. The supply has dwindled, however, and the reserve will perhaps play out within next decade. At that time, new strata on the West Side be tapped and traasported to the plant by truck. The upper two-and-a-half to three feet of the strata Is an adobe dirt which is mixed with hardpan, lying three-foot table just below it. To this is added 10 per binding clay shipped in from Lincoln, Calif., at the rate 100, 50-60 ton carloads per year. The local adobe-type dirt, called plant-mix by brickyard employes, becomes red when burned in the kilns because the iron oxide content. When colors such as buff, rose peach are required, Lincoln clays containing varying amounts of iron sulphate are mixed into the recipe, merges from a moid in an endless product which is The final mix is finely ground, combined with water matically cut, taken to drying sheds and finally to the where it is burned under temperatures varying from 2,000 degrees farenheit for from seven to 14 days. Below the local hardpan is sand, and below that another sand which can be utilized for making fire brick. only about 6 feet of material is generally used, leaving depressions in the earth which are used for storing the finished product.