The story of “Brighton Brick”, told within these pages, is rich in local history. A tale that spans 120 years relating land, people, and the brick manufacturing process from 1815 to 1935. The story location is the Town of Brighton, County of Monroe in the State of New York, “Upstate” as some say.
The workers, (Brickmen), who operated the kilns and formed the clay material into bricks lived on or near Monroe Avenue, many in homes owned by the Brick Companies or were neighbors living within walking distance of the Yards. Monroe Avenue, in the shadow of the Pinnacle Range, was a major route from the southeast into the City of Rochester. In the 1850’s a six mile section of Monroe Avenue was established as a Plank Road, financed mainly by the Brick Company owners. At the height of production (~1900), there were in excess of 200 men working at the yard know as “Rochester Brick & Tile Company”. The “German Brick and Tile Company” at the same time employed over a 100 people. This was large industrial employment for our small town. The majority of the Brick Yard operators & owners were also contractors. As contractors they bid on the construction and supervision of the building operations and supplied the necessary brick for construction. The Rochester City Hall built in 1850’s was an example of this dual responsibility with the Brick Yard owned by Gideon Cobb, supplying bricks and construction supervision.
The brick manufacturing process, (Brickmaking), as started in Brighton, was a very simple procedure. The clay was mined by hand, molded in a wooden form, and burned in a wood fire till compact. The process was quite labor intensive. Brick was also a heavy product, difficult to transport which encouraged local brick factories to form close to source of construction. The manufacturing equipment advanced during the 19th century as technology and science provided new techniques and tools. Updating the factories with the latest equipment was a constant need then as it is today, to enable factories to compete in price and quality. Brighton Brick Factories were ever advancing as our story will relate. Today’s modern brick factories are worked by robots, with fires continuously burning in temperatures controlled to tenths of a degree. Our ancestors would be amazed but understanding of the concept of change.