Charles P. Oudin, an inventor with several patents who moved to the Spokane area from Schenectady, New York, set up the Oudin & Bergman Fire Clay and Manufacturing Co. in 1893.
Oudin and Martin Bergman wanted to make equipment for the clay and brick industry. Bergman split to start his own brick plant, while Oudin and other partners founded American Fire Brick Co. in Mica in 1902. And they’ve been making bricks there ever since.
At the plant’s inception, Spokane was growing rapidly and still recovering from the great fire of 1889. The bricks went into buildings, paving streets and lining fireplaces. The plant also produced clay pipe and other clay products.
The brickyard at Mica required a large number of strong, young men to do the work. The company built a hotel for single men in 1921 so that workers wouldn’t have to make the long journey to return to the city after their shift each day. After World War II, the building emptied out and was used for storage. At the height of the Cold War, the old hotel was used as a radio communications center for civil defense in the 1950s.
The old hotel, now empty, still sits on the south side of the plant, facing Belmont Road.
In 1929, the plant was bought by Gladding McBean, a manufacturer based in California. Gladding merged with Lock Joint Pipe Co. in the 1960s and was renamed Interpace Corp.
Over the years, the plant has modernized with equipment for mass production. Rather than molding bricks, the clay mixture is extruded to size and automatically cut to length, then cured as the bricks move slowly through a tunnel kiln that can reach 2100 degrees. Some of the original round “beehive” kilns still stand and are used to produce fire brick.
In 1990, the plant was purchased by Mutual Materials, which continues to produce brick and veneer products at Mica.
The products of the Mica brickyard can be found in many places around the region and are shipped around the world. The bricks can be found at Fairchild Air Force Base, Washington State University, Starbucks coffee shops, University High School, Husky Stadium, Evergreen State College, Bellevue High School, MOD Pizza restaurants and many other fire stations, schools, and retail and office buildings.
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