The Lost Legacy of the Hudson Valley’s Bricks

Samples of Hudson River bricks, courtesy of the Frank and Jane Clement Brick Museum.
Samples of Hudson River bricks, courtesy of the Frank and Jane Clement Brick Museum.

Needless to say, we’re all big fans of Hudson Valley manufacturing around these parts, but we’re not alone. One particularly passionate niche fandom we were intrigued to hear about is the brick collectors. Yes that’s right, people who collect old and historic bricks, and they’ve got an ideal place to do it around here. Because of its abundance of quality clays and close proximity to New York City, the Hudson Valley emerged as a hub of brick making to meet the construction needs of the ever growing metropolis. Brick manufacturing centers initially emerged around present day Albany and Stony Point and would spread throughout the region. By the early 20th century, the Hudson Valley led the world in brick production. The industry was hit hard by the Great Depression and changing construction methods, today none of the 100-plus brick makers that operated along the Hudson river in 1910 are still active. While the companies are gone, however, their legacy remains in the form of hundreds of their unused bricks scattered throughout the Hudson Valley around former production cites. Brick collectors are those dedicated soles who wander through woods, streams, and creeks looking for those bricks. If they find one they may add it to their collection, or they may trade it for a different one from another collector. These passionate men and women are keeping a key piece of the Hudson Velley’s manufacturing legacy alive, and for that we thank them.

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