What Are Hidden Bricks?
Many important building projects beginning in the 1870s were built with Hidden bricks, stretching up and down the entire West Coast. Nearly all of old Vancouver was built with Hidden bricks, but sadly most of the old buildings were razed long ago in the 1960's. By 1940, the 26th & Kaufmann yard was producing 500,000 to 1.2 million bricks per year (averaging a 150-day brick making season).
What Makes Hidden Bricks So Special?
A horse drawn plow exposed the clay to weather for a period before it was then carried by a scraper to a trap. Clay was then sent to the plant via conveyor, where it was then soaked in a pit and tempered with water and sand. Initially, a horse was used to power the pug mill. This process was replaced around 1900 by a Potts pug mill.
A metal plate with two handles was used to strike the excess mud from the mold. By 1913, a stiff-mud auger machine was added to manufacture wire-cut common and rough-textured bricks. However, the stiff-mud process was no longer being used by 1981.
In later years, the bricks were sent to the drying yard by a rack and cable system that transported four bricks per wooden rack. At the drying yard, the racks were then stacked in long rows eleven high which reduced handling and damage to the bricks.
...And All Because of a French Canadian Nun Named Mother Joseph.
Mother Joseph approached L.M. Hidden when he was working on Hayden Island, Oregon, because she'd heard he was a hard worker who was down on his luck and had some past experience with working with clay. She made him a promise that he if he helped her make bricks that God's Providence would protect them both. Hayden Island is important to this story; we start to get into why on Episode Two of Two Witches Podcast.
Mother Joseph needed a local brick supplier to supply materials for her projects through the Sisters of Providence. The Hidden Brick Company was founded to supply the materials to build a large orphanage and school that she designed and built to serve the Vancouver community, the Providence Academy. The Academy is historically important for a number of reasons and was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1978.
Hidden bricks were always known for their beauty, quality and durability, and even today are sought after by collectors and people interested in vintage building materials. Mother Joseph knew how to make quality bricks... but who taught HER?
The bricks themselves are inexorably tied to the history of the City of Vancouver and the founding of social services in the Pacific Northwest. The fact that the same City has now been caught taking shortcuts to hasten the destruction of a portion of the Providence Academy has led to this project. This would be an excellent time for some weirdos to suddenly become interested in haunted bricks.