ebook  History of Watertown, Wisconsin


Watertown Brick


1848      Note on brick making and building

Our Village – It is gratifying, and speaks well for the preserving industry and enterprise of our citizens, to see the extensive preparations that are being made to “go ahead” in almost every department of improvement, in every quarter of our village.  Lumber and brick – don’t start Milwaukee!


We have got real bona fide Watertown brick, just as good as – It’s a fact.  True, we have not built up a “Queen City” here yet, but if the manufacture of brick can elevate a place to majesty (which of course you will not deny).  Watertown is already a princess royal.


Lumber and brick, we say [see], are piled high upon a great many hitherto vacant lots, and a number of active laborers are at work, “digging into the bowels of the earth,” not in search of “villainous salt-peter,” but for the peaceful purpose of excavating cellars. 


The number of buildings which will be erected during the current year will be greater than during any former two or three years; and many of them will add much to the appearance of our village.  Among them will be the steam grist mill of Messrs Cole and Bailey, which has already ‘broke ground,’ and is advancing on the most modern and approved “progressive principles.”



01 12       The second brick house in this village has just received its roof.  It is owned and was built by Mr. Alonzo Platt, is 20 by 30 feet, two stories high, and is situated on Western Avenue.  The first brick house built here is on the same street - the two showing off to much advantage in that sparsely settled portion of our town.  In digging his well, Mr. P. struck a spring of fine water, and now has an abundance supply of that commodity under his roof.  Watertown Chronicle


[NOTE: It is uncertain if this is the same Alonzo Platt, who in 1828 arrived in the area that became Platteville and he becoming a prominent citizen, but it is doubtful as the Platte River was so named before his arrival there]



1854, Octagon House



02 06       Sold Out -- We are informed that the brick makers have sold all the brick they had on hand when winter set in, and only wish they had more to fill the orders they daily receive.  A large amount of building will be commenced here and in the surrounding country when spring opens.  This will give employment to mechanics and make lively times.   WD



11 22       Brick -- The season just closing has been a lively one for our manufacturers of brick.  The demand for the beautiful cream colored brick, for which Watertown is so noted, has been increasing from year to year, and next season will witness a large increase of business in this line over any former year, owing to the activity and building that is expected in all quarters.  Our brick manufacturers are making extensive preparations to meet the extra demand for the brick the coming season, and several yards in the city will be working to their full capacity.   WR



Block, August, Sr (Wilhelmina)     1879, d. 1878, flour, feed, saloon, brickyard business



Brick-making business started by Cordes and Terbrueggen




It will be noticed by last night's proceedings of the common council, forty-three property holders have signed a remonstrance against improving Main Street with a vitrified brick pavement.  It is held that macadam will answer every demand and be considerably cheaper.  The petitioners ask that, before the work of paving is started, comparative estimates of brick and macadam be furnished.  In some quarters it is held that this move was started by persons who are against any sort of paving, but the petitioners will present, on the other hand, that they favor judicious street improvement . . . Vitrified brick is a pavement guaranteed to last for years, when properly laid.  Nearly all cities doing permanent street work where asphalt is not employed are utilizing brick, and in every instance it has proved a success . . .  When the comparative worth of macadam and brick is considered, the difference in the cost is very slight.  WR


08 04       CHANGED HIS MIND

A gentleman who signed the petition presented to the city council Tuesday evening, advocating macadam pavement for Main street, stated to a Times reporter this afternoon that he would withdraw his name from the paper and knew of others who wished to do the same.  He said that when signing the paper he did so on the spur of the moment, but now states that he is not in favor of macadam on Main Street at any price.


Street Paving.  The city council should not allow persons who happen to own property on a street which it is intended to pave to have all the say as to what kind of paving should be used.  It must be remembered that the city stands a portion of the expense and the whole city is directly interested as well as the property owners.  There has been plenty of testimony appearing in the press of this city with regard to the excellence of brick paving and the columns of the Times are open to anyone who can show any reason why macadam paving should be used.  If the owners of property on Main Street who desire macadam paving have reasons for it, let them state them. They failed to do so in the petition to the council.   WR



Brick laid on Main St



Contractor Schoenlaub makes the complaint that people are in the habit of testing the quality of the brick being used for the street pavement.  Chipping these bricks does not make them suitable for usage and the cost of them is 1 ½ cents apiece.  It does not amount to much if one brick is chipped, but in the long run it is a great loss.  Prosecution will follow if this practice continues.   WR



    Brick yard workers



     The Clays and Clay Industries of Wisconsin, By Ernest Robertson Buckley, Published by Published by the state, 1901


Two brick yards are located at this place, one of which is owned by L. H. Cordes and Company and the other by Cordes, Vaughn and Company.  Both are now being operated under the management of L. H. Cordes and Company. 


The combined output of the two yards is in the neighborhood of five million brick per year.  The stock is graded and sold as common, chimney, sidewalk, well, and veneering brick.  


The clay at this place has a total thickness of about twenty-five feet.  The upper four or five feet contains a considerable percentage of sand and has a yellow color.  The remaining twenty feet has a blue color and contains much less sand.  The bank is now worked to a depth of about ten or twelve feet and the yellow and blue clays are mixed together in equal proportions. 


To the clay as it comes from the bank about one-fifth sand is added.  The clay is run through a crusher and then soaked for twenty-four hours in vats.  The brick are moulded in soft mud machines, operated by steam power, dried in hacks on the yard, and burned in scove kilns. 


The clay from this bank is very free from gravel and was at one time used in the manufacture of pottery. 


The clay which occurs at the yard owned by Cordes, Vaughn and Company is essentially the same as that at the yard just described. 


The brick which are manufactured from this clay have a white or cream color and are among the more desirable products of the calcareous clay region.  Besides building brick, the clay is undoubtedly suitable for the manufacture of some of the commoner kinds of earthenware such as flower pots.  



05 20       Original Watertown bricks that lined former front walk of Octagon House replaced by stamped concrete; bricks offered for sale.



Cross References:

               Chadwick Brick Company

Cordes, Louis, profile of

Terbrueggen, Joseph, 1912, Obit; for about 30 years was a member of the brick manufacturing firm of L. H. Cordes & Co.

Boomer and Quentmeyer:  Brick making business






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History of Watertown, Wisconsin