May 22, 1878 – Fred Kunkel produced 70,000 bricks at his new Mendocino brick yard. The brick maker pressed locally-sourced clay into wooden molds by hand to form the bricks. The process of manufacturing a kiln full of bricks was a months-long endeavor, and the Beacon closely followed Fred’s progress.

Saw mill in foreground and tall brick chimney in background

Mendocino Lumber Company Mill on Big River Flat, 1890 – 1898. The third Mendocino lumber mill, built in 1864 after the second mill burned down. The square brick chimney was constructed in 1864 and made from over one million locally made bricks. This chimney collapsed in the 1906 earthquake. (Gift of Alice Earl Wilder)

There were two locations on the east side of Mendocino where clay could be found for making bricks: the end of Blair Street, and the north side of Little Lake Road, across from Clark Street. When Steve Schlafer was grading the site of the new fire station on the corner of Little Lake and Hills Ranch Roads in 1992, he hit a layer of yellow clay, and Ken Jackson remembered that there had been an old clay pit there.

Fred first created sample bricks from the clay, and the Beacon described his samples in December. “We have before us a sample brick manufactured by Mr. Fred Kunkel, which presents a very fine appearance. In hardness it compares favorably with the San Francisco brick, and in color far excels them. The brick before us was made only to test the clay, and there were no pains taken as to fine edge and rich color. Mr. Kunkel surely deserves great credit and more encouragement.”

Fred began constructing the brick kiln in February, and by April, he had 30,000 bricks in the kiln and was molding more at a rate of 2,000-3,000 bricks per day. He had already received numerous orders, and the Beacon stated that “the quality and price for Mendocino brick will be satisfactory to purchasers.”

By July, Fred had sold his bricks and moved on to Point Arena. “We are pleased to learn that Fred Kunkel who manufactured the kiln of bricks at this place, is meeting with success in that enterprise at Point Arena.”

New Book! MEMORIES OF CABOT COVE by Barbara Reed – Fans of the hit TV show “Murder, She Wrote,” will love this commemorative 44-page photo booklet with 35 color and black-and-white images from filming in Mendocino during the 1980s and ’90s. Mendocino was chosen for its resemblance to a New England town and was given the name Cabot Cove on the show, which starred Angela Lansbury as the plucky sleuth, Jessica Fletcher. Author Barbara Reed is the former owner of the Hill House Inn, which was featured repeatedly in the show, and still welcomes visitors with a sign out front reading “Hill House of Cabot Cove.” Many of the cast and crew stayed here during filming. The introduction in this revised edition is written by Jain Lemos, daughter of Toni Lemos, who was Mendocino County’s Film Coordinator for decades. $15.