Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Coffeyville Brick Walkway

They say "the devil is in the details," but I think God is in the details.  The real beauty of a complex object is often best seen, not only in the "big picture," but also in the attention to detail of the builder.

For example:  The front walkway to the house at 801 Flynn in Alva, Oklahoma is made of bricks from the Coffeyville, Kansas Vitrified Brick & Tile Company.  I'd forgotten that some of the bricks are stamped with the makers' name.

I wonder if the bricks for the house itself were from Coffeyville, too?  It seems a reasonable assumption.  

When I got home from my trip last week, I did some quick research on the company.  I found an interesting piece of American history on the Coffeyville, Kansas Chamber of Commerce website:

"Due to an abundance of natural resources - large deposits of shale, limestone and building stone - Coffeyville had a number of brick plants in the late 1890’s and early 1900’s - the Standard Brick Company, Vitrified Brick Company, Yoke Brick Company.

"When Coffeyville's four brick factories were operating to capacity some 765,500 bricks were made every day. Today these bricks can be seen literally throughout the world and have become a collector's item to many.

"In the 1900's bricks were in great demand for sidewalk and street paving. There were 36 blocks of brick streets by 1905 to replace the dust and mud roads.  Also, many railroads used bricks for their passenger platforms. Each factory would imprint their brick with a company name or a special design. One of the best known Coffeyville bricks is the yoke brick made by the Yoke Vitrified Brick Company."

The Coffeyville Chamber website also notes the importance of glass in the city's history: 

"Coffeyville was the home of both blown glass factories and bottle glass factories.

"The art of hand blown glass produced a romantic era for Coffeyville between 1901 and 1916.  There were 10 glass plants in the city.  A number of homes today have windows of the blown glass from Coffeyville factories, and some collectors have glass fruit jars, plates, and other items which say 'Made in Coffeyville.'

"Glass blowers, who had learned their trade from their fathers and grandfathers in Europe, moved to Coffeyville with their families...  More than 1000 jobs were available in the glass factories at one time and it was said that half the town’s adult population was 'glass people.'  Glass blowers were highly skilled and earned $75 to $100 per week depending upon the amount of their production....

"The Coffeyville Window Glass Company was located by the Katy tracks on the present site of the Acme Foundry.  The company employed 175 to 200 workers.  One year $200,000 worth of glass products was marketed by the company.  Over 700,000 feet of lumber were used in making boxes in which to ship the glass."

This information makes me wonder if the any of the original glass in the Crowell House in Alva came from Coffeyville, too?  The research I did for my previous post indicated that George Crowell, the house's original owner, brought in an Italian craftsman, and that all the wood and glass were imported from Kansas.

P.G. Wodehouse humorously wrote: "Whatever may be said in favour of the Victorians, it is pretty generally admitted that few of them were to be trusted within reach of a trowel and a pile of bricks."   The three-story Crowell House was built in 1906, five years after Queen Victoria died, so I guess it's technically "Edwardian" except that the architecture is said to be Prairie-style -- oh, well.  

Whatever the case, it's obvious that someone in 1906 was expert at handling a trowel and a very, very large pile of bricks.  

It's good to know that Mr. Crowell could trust his builders and, after more than 100 years, the bricks in the house at 801 Flynn are still standing strong.

To be continued....


The Coffeyville Chamber's website is here: 

This story is one in a series on the historic red brick house at 801 Flynn in Alva, Oklahoma.  This Prairie-style mansion was built in 1906 by local businessman George W. Crowell. 

My grandmother bought it from his heirs in 1968, and lived there for several years. 

The house has changed hands several times since then; it’s now The Vintage Inn, a bed-and-breakfast.  

I went back to visit in October 2013.   All the blog posts I wrote on the visit are collected here:  http://estatesalechronicles.blogspot.com/2013/11/the-historic-house-at-801-flynn-alva.html

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  1. Glad you liked it. I'm going to post several more stories on the old things in and around this house in NW Oklahoma.