Wednesday, April 10, 2013

New Orleans Silica Brick

In 1915, Harry M. Dyett announced the formation of a new venture that would transform Lake Pontchartrain white sand into brick. He sought testimonials from local architects, including Paul Andry and Rathbone De Buys, and claimed that his new company would utilize the Dyett Press (patent image above), which had been developed by his brother, James H. Dyett.

The Dyetts established the New Orleans Silica Brick Company and built a factory along the New Basin Canal near Murat Street. The location allowed easy transport of sand acquired along the Tchefuncta River. The bricks could be made in ten hours' time, which significantly reduced the lengthy process that had been associated with kiln-fired brick.(1)  The company employed one hundred men in its first year of operations, and expanded its workforce as the material gained popularity.

Emile Weil used the brick for his 827 Carondelet Street building for the Jacobs Candy Company, his 5341 St. Charles Avenue duplex for Louisiana Bag Company President Jasmin Feitel (1917) and Nolan & Torre used it for their Klotz Cracker Factory building (615 Tchoupitoulas Street, 1918). Bungalow architect Morgan Hite advocated its use as a means of reducing construction and upkeep costs, and cited its planned appearance in Gentilly Terrace.(2)

Image above: J.H. Dyett.  The Dyett Press (Patent No. 952,790). 22 March 1910. As viewed 10 April 1913 via google patents.

(1)"Silica Brick Company Plant." The Times-Picayune (13 August 1916): p. 32.

(2)M.D. Hite. "Cheaper to Build Houses of Brick Than of Lumber." The Times-Picayune (17 February 1918): p. 42.

To read more, see New Orleans Silica Brick Company Prospectus. New Orleans, c. 1915. Martin Shepard Office Records, Southeastern Architectural Archive, Special Collections Division, Tulane University Libraries.

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