Anyone who has lived in Saginaw for any length of time has seen Saginaw bricks and probably even owned one or two of them. Sections of Baum Street downtown and part of Cass Street in Old Town are still paved with Saginaw Bricks. I have always wondered about who made them and where they came from. The strange thing is, bricks can be found, but information on them is extremely difficult to find. Hoyt library had a few newspaper clippings and I found an advertising booklet at the Library of Michigan in Lansing.
With the decline of sawmill operations and the lumbering industry in the late 1800s, brick making became a popular industry with several manufacturers making bricks in Saginaw and along the Tittibawassee River.
The Saginaw Paving Brick Company is the company that produced the famous dark brown-red brick with the name Saginaw proudly embossed on the face of the brick. Originally started in 1894, on the corner of Jefferson and Rust as the Saginaw Clay Manufacturing co, it eventually became the Saginaw Paving Brick Company shipping bricks on Pere Marquette rail cars throughout Michigan. The clay for the bricks came from a mine in flushing. Saginaw bricks are vitrified bricks, a process that cures the bricks into a much harder stronger brick, making them ideal for paving. Vitrification was the reason why Saginaw Bricks are known for their toughness and durability.
The Saginaw Paving Brick Company also manufactured bricks for the construction industry and was used in the construction of St. Mary’s and St. Andrews churches among several other buildings and houses in Saginaw, sadly many are gone now, like the Arthur Hill Trade School which stood on the corner of Mackinaw and Michigan Ave. where McDonalds is now.
They were also used to construct many schools around Michigan including old schools in Clifford, Reese, Pontiac, and Sanford Michigan.
A railroad strike in 1910 stopped manufacturing for a short period because they could not get clay from the mine in flushing. In 1917 the demand for coal during the war saw the rationing of coal used to cure the bricks. The war department deemed the plant non essential and it closed. In 1920 the plant was sold to Carde Stamping and Tool co. The general manager for Carde was R.P. Means and the plant eventually evolved into Means Industries.
For a place that closed almost 100 years ago its amazing how many bricks are still around, they must have made millions in the short time they were producing bricks.
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