Hidden bricks are a type of old red brick that were made by the Hidden Brick Company in Vancouver, Washington. The Hidden Brick Company was started in 1871 by Lowell Mason Hidden and continuously operated in Vancouver until 1992 upon his grandson Robert Hidden's death. Hidden bricks sold for $8 per 1,000 in the early days.
Many important building projects beginning in the 1870s were built with Hidden bricks, stretching up and down the entire West Coast. Nearly all of old Vancouver was built with Hidden bricks, but sadly most of the old buildings were razed long ago in the 1960's. By 1940, the 26th & Kaufmann yard was producing 500,000 to 1.2 million bricks per year (averaging a 150-day brick making season).
Hand-molded Hidden brick backside, circa 1871-1904.
Wire cut Hidden brick backside, circa 1905, Carnegie Library.
The rarest of Hiddens are stamped with the year of manufacture in the frog (indent on front).
At their peak, the Hidden Brick Company was providing bricks simultaneously for Portland Hospitals, the Boise Cascade paper mill and parts of the historic Oregon State University.
Andrea recently visited the gorgeous 1966 built OSU Pharmacy building in Corvallis, which was constructed from Hidden bricks and has some excellent examples of outstanding masonry work.
Oregon State University's 1966 built Pharmacy building, 2020.
L.M.'s son W. F. Hidden began making bricks with his father and uncles by age 15 for the Tacoma Hotel.
Hidden bricks are unique for many reasons, beginning with the rich alluvial silt that provided the the raw material for the bricks. Hidden's yellow clay-loam from an alluvial silt deposit occurs at both of the Hidden brickyard locations that the Hidden Brick Company operated. If you walk along the liminal Columbia River from either side you can find chunks of this same rich alluvial clay (baby bricks) and even traces of bricks washed up.
The first clay at the Hidden yard was dug out of the soil near 15th and Main Streets in downtown Vancouver. The first clay pit was where L. M. Hidden eventually built the Carnegie Library (now the Clark County Historical Museum). The Hiddens eventually donated this land and building to the City of Vancouver with the stipulation that a public library always remain in the building.
This haunted building constructed from Hidden bricks still honors L.M's request and serves the community as our local Historical Research Library. A new art installation based on the Hidden bricks called "Revealed" by artist Randy Walker is in progress, and to be honest, I'm not sure how I feel about it.
Original lot at 15th and Main Streets, Vancouver, WA.
The 15th Street clay deposit ranged from 4 to 10 feet in thickness with no overburden and was on top of decomposed gravel. The clay was free of pebbles, one of the reasons Hiddens were known for their quality. In 1929 the Hidden Brick Company relocated to its second and final location at 26th & Kaufmann Streets in Vancouver. The clay pit at the second yard was 50 feet wide and 400 feet in length.
A horse drawn plow exposed the clay to weather for a period before it was then carried by a scraper to a trap. Clay was then sent to the plant via conveyor, where it was then soaked in a pit and tempered with water and sand. Initially, a horse was used to power the pug mill. This process was replaced around 1900 by a Potts pug mill.
15th & Main now, the L.M. Hidden built Carnegie Library.
The clay passed through disintegrator rolls to the pug mill. Initially, hand-made bricks were formed in wooden molds. These molds contained six compartments and half of them were imprinted with the name HIDDEN on the faces of the brick.
By 1905, the bricks were machine made using a Henry Martin brick machine, which automatically filled the wooden molds.
A metal plate with two handles was used to strike the excess mud from the mold. By 1913, a stiff-mud auger machine was added to manufacture wire-cut common and rough-textured bricks. However, the stiff-mud process was no longer being used by 1981.
An 1891 Kiln advertisement, similar to what the Hiddens used at the Hidden Brick Company.
After being removed from the molds, the bricks were then taken by conveyor or by wheelbarrows to the drying yard to dry in the sun. After a few hours they are turned on their sides and "bobbed," or hit with a board to help smooth and reform them into shape.
In later years, the bricks were sent to the drying yard by a rack and cable system that transported four bricks per wooden rack. At the drying yard, the racks were then stacked in long rows eleven high which reduced handling and damage to the bricks.
Second Hidden Brick Company lot at 26th & Kaufmann.
After about 3 weeks of drying time, the bricks were then moved to the downdraft kiln. The bricks were stacked 35 to 40 high in the rectangular kiln, which had a capacity of 35,000 brick at a time. The bricks were fired for 10 to 14 days using wood as fuel.
Continuing to make them the "old" way by hand is one of the things that makes them incredibly unique. The newest piece of equipment at the brickyard when L.M. Hidden's grandson Robert Hidden operated it was a downdraft kiln from the 1960's.
A brick press machine from the late 1800s was still in use up until the company's closure in 1992.
26th & Kaufmann now, final Hidden brickyard, closed 1992.
Robert continued to stay in business until his death as a labor of love, providing quality vintage building materials for deteriorating historic sites up and down the West Coast, which were his true passion.
I have attempted to get in touch with the current Hidden family members to tour the old brickyard, but haven't been successful. It is marked with "No Trespassing" signs and a fence that I continue to obey.
CBMA (Common Brick Makers Association) Logo rope and pulley design Hidden brick.
Hidden brick mold and equipment inside the Historical Museum.
Clark County's original Courthouse (built 1883, replaced 1941) was built with Hidden bricks.
1957 Hidden brick.
The 1884 Tacoma Hotel burned in 1935. Famous for having a live bear named Jack inside.
...And All Because of a French Canadian Nun Named Mother Joseph.
Mother Joseph approached L.M. Hidden when he was working on Hayden Island, Oregon, because she'd heard he was a hard worker who was down on his luck and had some past experience with working with clay. She made him a promise that he if he helped her make bricks that God's Providence would protect them both. Hayden Island is important to this story; we start to get into why on Episode Two of Two Witches Podcast.
Mother Joseph needed a local brick supplier to supply materials for her projects through the Sisters of Providence. The Hidden Brick Company was founded to supply the materials to build a large orphanage and school that she designed and built to serve the Vancouver community, the Providence Academy. The Academy is historically important for a number of reasons and was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1978.
Mother Joseph in Walla Walla, WA, circa 1882.
Providence Academy, Vancouver, Washington circa 1910.
Completed in 1873, Mother Joseph's Providence Academy still proudly stands on the corner of C and Evergreen Streets, the last remaining building she herself built. She once was so dissatisfied with a chimney completed in her absence that she tore it down overnight and rebuilt it herself by morning.
Hidden bricks were always known for their beauty, quality and durability, and even today are sought after by collectors and people interested in vintage building materials. Mother Joseph knew how to make quality bricks...
but who taught HER?
The fact cannot be ignored that many of the remaining original Hidden brick buildings still standing are verifiably haunted - why? We've got some theories.
The bricks themselves are inexorably tied to the history of the City of Vancouver and the founding of social services in the Pacific Northwest. The fact that the same City has now been caught taking shortcuts to hasten the destruction of a portion of the Providence Academy has led to this project. This would be an excellent time for some weirdos to suddenly become interested in haunted bricks.
The Kaiser Shipyard - Hidden Links To More Hauntings.
During World War II, seven major shipbuilding yards called the Kaiser Shipyards were in operation on the west coast. One of them was in Vancouver, Washington on the Columbia River and began production on five types of vessels here in 1942. Kaiser leased the land in Vancouver from the Hidden family and the Shipyards were decommissioned at the end of the war.
141 ships were built at this site. To fill the need for worker housing, Kaiser built the city of Vanport on Portland’s northern edge, housing 42,000 men, women, and children. Vanport was destroyed by flood in 1948 and racism was a contributing factor to the 12 lives lost that awful day.
The Legend of the "Undead Twelve" has been around since the tragic loss of the entire town of Vanport. Most of the lost souls appear after a heavy rain. There are many rumored reports of the dead on Interstate 5 near the Vanport area.
Additionally, a phantom tugboat that sunk in February 1943 has reportedly been seen from the Oregon side of the river along Marine Drive. 10 of the 19 sailors on board died in that tragedy... deaths continue to pile up in this area.
Sara's husband's grandfather worked at the Kaiser shipyard in the 1940s, partially in response to the tragedy of Vanport. He took over his best friend's job after he died in the event. This is not the only surprising familial link to the players in this story... not by a long shot. We will start to get into that as we release episodes of Two Witches Podcast and how this familial pattern is one of the veins of Synchronicity happening.
The railroad tracks near Hidden Way were the site of a terrible train accident on May 22, 1942 when three men died on their way to the Kaiser Shipyard. The colliding trains could be heard squealing all the way down at Fort Vancouver. There are continued reports of shaken security guards that hear horrible crashing noises with the sounds of men screaming in agony at the site.
L.M. Hidden is a part of Vancouver's Railroad history as well, with ties to Yacolt, another highly liminal place linked to Hidden bricks.
Another awful incident related to this industrial area is a fire that happened on November 12, 1942 in Dormatory D of what was called the Hudson House, a public housing complex for the workers at the Kaiser Shipyard. Seven people died and forty were injured in this blaze.
Employees at the industrial site now built on the area where the dormitory was located report uneasy feelings and strange occurrences in the building ever since the fire.
I'm sensing a pattern that 1942 was not a good year to be hanging around this part of Vancouver, even if it did lead to the eventual founding of Kaiser Permanente.
One of the ships built in Vancouver at the Kaiser Shipyard in the 1940s.
In April 1944 there was a sad death of a Kaiser Shipyard maintenance employee related to an explosion at the site there. One other employee was also seriously burned in the incident but survived his grave injuries. Another fire happened here in 1948.
These tragedies seem to cluster around Hidden-linked sites. Another site linked to a cluster like this is around 26th and Kaufmann, very close to where I worked in a haunted metal shop for two years, and had several scary near misses myself.
We will take a deeper look at this part of town called Fruit Valley soon and the ties to Mother Joseph and the Providence Academy.
Fruit Valley Park. I tried to spend lunch hours here when I worked across the street, but it never felt good. The only local park I don't like.
The haunted shop, the only job I ever just walked from. La Framboise (Raspberry in French) Road led me to research, discovering MoJo was here.
The former site of Mother Joseph's barn on land she once owned to farmed produce for the orphans at the Providence Academy.