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A History of McNear Brick and Block

In about 1897, the abandoned brick works in Fortin, located on McNear Point, 4 miles east of San Rafael in Marin County, California, were reopened by John Augustus McNear, a grain trader of Petaluma. In Wiscasset, Maine, McNear was born in 1832. Before he arrived in San Francisco in 1856, he had stayed for two years in Pascagoula in Mississippi. In 1867 he married Hattie Miller and had three children named George P., John A., Jr. and Erskine B. McNear. He acquired the original San Pedro Point, which later had renamed McNear Point in 1868. Petaluma was the location for the founding of The McNear Company on May 3, 1898. 


Nearby the McNear Company, there was a deposit of clay that is situated on the neighboring mountain, and was depleted until around 1989. A sandy shale and plastic clay formed the terre deposit. Horse drawn vehicles were brought in in 1913, which were drawn in by trains, to load the storage bins. The horse drawn vehicles later were substituted by trucks. The plant equipment in 1913 consisted of two crushers, lifts, screens, pug mill, extruder with stiff-mud auger, a wire cutting machine with the Ferris fire, belt off-bearing and drying belt, two permanent Hoffman kilns, one with twenty and one with five compartments. The fired coal and oil was fired. The annual capability of each of the kilns was 10 million bricks. McNear employed 90 people in 1913. In 1999, 50 staff members produced 15 million bricks annually.


In 1907, the brick company was run by Erskine B. McNear, a son of John A. McNear who opened the sales yard on San Francisco's Second Street at 704 Montgomery Street in a new office. Erskine purchased the interests of his brothers George P. and John A. Jr. in September 1922. Up to 1933, when manufacturing stopped because of the depression, E.B. McNear produced bricks. B. E. and his wife Lucretia had 4 children, named Lucretia, Erskine B., Jr., Lawrence P. and Miller P. McNear. On October 23, 1956, E. B. McNear died.


In 1946 L. P. McNear, son of E.B., reopened the McNear Point brick factory and in July 1947, sold the first brick. He worked under the name L. P. McNear Brick Company, and 946 Monadnock Building was the San Francisco company office. While married to Imogene, they had children named Jane H., Lawrence P., Jr. and John E. McNear. On July 16, 1971, L. P. McNear died. The L.P. McNear company was incorporated on 16 December 1971, by John E. McNear, his wife Pat McNear, his brother Lawrence P. (Jr.) McNear and sister Jane Powers. They acquired the McNear Company on September 1, 1991 and started to operate as McNear Brick & Block.


The bricks had first been transported to Sacramento, Stockton and the district towns of San Francisco Bay by scow schooner, and subsequently by barge. Big semi-trailers are transported today throughout Northern California to building material yards. McNear bricks have been used in many prominent buildings, such as the San Rafael City Hall, Library, and Church of the Redeemer in San Rafael; Matson Building, Walden Library, Shriner Hospital, and North Point Theater in San Francisco; San Mateo High School and Dunfey Hotel in San Mateo; Bellevue-Staten Apartment, Castlemont High School, and LDS Interstake Center in Oakland, and the Shiva Vishnu Hindu Temple in Livermore. There were no brand names on the historical and traditional McNear bricks.


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