Economics, Ideology, and the Brick Industry in Tucson

Article excerpt

In 1995, archaeologists excavated remnants of the Tucson Pressed Brick Company (TPBCo), a brickyard established in the late nineteenth century and operating in Tucson, Arizona, through 1974 (Diehl and Diehl 1996). A documentary and archaeological study of TPBCo revealed that changes in the fortunes of Tucson's brick industry were tied to ideological as well as economic stimuli. Tucson's brickyards thrived and declined in conjunction with trends in architectural styles and also as a consequence of deliberate efforts to craft a public image of the city--first as a "modern" city, and later as the "Old Pueblo."


Quintus Monier, the founder of Tucson's first large brickyard, was born in Clermont, France, in 1855. He received instruction in stonecutting and bricklaying from his father and attended Christian Brothers College. In 1877, Monier emigrated to the United States. With the assistance of Archbishop Clermont, he secured the contract to build St. Francis Cathedral in Santa Fe, New Mexico--a structure that cost $120,000 to erect (Sloan 1930: 545). The cathedral was noteworthy at the time because it eschewed the Southwestern mission style in favor of a Gothic, cut-stone design. Monier stayed in Santa Fe for eighteen years, during which time he built the Loretto Academy, St. Michael's College, a courthouse, and numerous commercial and residential buildings.

In 1894, Monier was invited to Tucson by Bishop Bourgade to construct the new St. Augustine Cathedral. Monier's bid for a Gothic brick cathedral was accepted, and construction was completed in 1896 (see figure 1). Monier, who was also the architect (Arizona Daily Citizen 1896: 4) probably chose to build with brick for several reasons, including a desire to avoid the use of adobe, the expense associated with quarrying enough stone for such a large structure, and the high quality and widespread local availability of clay suitable for manufacturing fired bricks.


Monier may have produced the bricks used in the Tucson cathedral. Although TPBCo was not incorporated as a publicly held corporation until 1908, there is compelling evidence that the brickyard had been established as a commercial venture by the end of 1898 (City of Tucson 1899: 97). Monier purchased the land on which TPBCo was established from Mariano Samaniego and A. McVeigh in 1898 and 1899. A catalog card for an artifact found on Monier's property and donated to the Arizona State Museum indicates that in 1900 the brickyard was locally known as "Monier's brickyard." Monier later sold the property to his newly incorporated company, TPBCo, in 1908 for a nominal amount (Pima County Deeds, Real Estate Docket 45, p. 110). Although TPBCo was not Tucson's first brickyard (Arizona Daily Star 1879: 4, 1883: 3), it was probably the first to employ engine-driven machinery for mass production.

St. Augustine Cathedral was downtown Tucson's first large brick structure, requiring approximately 800,000 common bricks to manufacture (Diamos 1985:27; Williams 1986: 86). Other prominent Tucson buildings constructed by Monier included St. Joseph's Academy, St. Mary's Sanatorium (see figure 2), the Santa Rita Hotel, the Eagle Milling Company (see figure 3), and several University of Arizona buildings. Figure 4 lists many of the buildings Monier reported creating with bricks from TPBCo (Monier n.d.). During his ownership of TPBCo, Monier also constructed more than one hundred residences in Arizona and New Mexico (see for example figure 5). His social standing and political activism (he served on the Tucson City Council from January 4, 1909, through January 17, 1910) probably served him well in his efforts to secure building contracts (Arizona Daily Star 1923: 2).


[Figure 4. Selected buildings constructed with bricks or hollow tiles from the Tucson Pressed Brick Company, 1896-1923]

Prominent Residences in Tucson

Noah W. …