Port Haney Brick and Tile Company

In 1907 on the former Hinch Road (225th Street), W. Horie, E. Baynes and H. Burnet purchased a riverside lot from a Mr. Carlson and proceeded to tear up the place.  Like many Europeans who came to Haney, including the town’s namesake, these men knew the soil could give them what they wanted: creamy grey clay, thick but pliable enough…  While small brick-making operations had gone on here for years, the founders of the Port Haney Brick and Tile Company were keen on the business opportunity presented by the convenient nexus of an ample site and its clay deposits, good access to the river and railroad, and – their special observation — the growing demand for brick to face the public buildings of rapidly expanding Vancouver.

Haney was  a wood-framed town, where brick has always been somewhat out of place and out of reach: an unnecessary decoration on tired and well-worn farm buildings and hobby houses which happened to sit amid a generous supply of trees.

P00619.  ND.  Wide aerial view of Maple Ridge from over the Fraser River, with brickyard complex in lower right and Haney above it.

From 1907 to 1977, the brickyard at the bottom of Hinch pumped out clay products: facing brick for buildings, and diversifying into drainage tile for agricultural fields.  After the Second World War, the yard shifted yet again toward tile and consumer products for gardening.  Managed by three hands in its 70 year history — Harold Burnet from 1907-1946, Jim Hadgkiss 1946-1970, and Alan Findlay 1970-1977 — the yard employed as many as 90 hands in the 1920s before mechanical improvements and changes in operation thinned the labour roll.  The Burnets, Hadgkisses, and Findlays all received the privilege of living in the brick house where the Maple Ridge Museum is now located.  Many of the plant’s early employees were immigrants from India and China, while stringent federal restrictions on non-white immigration and general Anti-Asian discrimination between the 1910s and 40s kept the yard white in later years.

P03474.  ND [1910-15].  Prior to the introduction of the site’s first excavator in 1929, clay was dug and carted by hand.  It moved from the rear of the yard site into the sheds via a track system.  Four labourers.  Before 1908 when exclusionary immigration laws were enacted, many Punjabi Sikhs arrived in Maple Ridge to take jobs at the brickyard.

The yard pushed on through the depression, aided indirectly by subsidies to farmers (who purchased its drainage tiles), and through the Second World War.  Wood fuel was replaced by “sticky” fuel oil, and then by natural gas.  Shovels had been replaced by excavators much earlier.  But the large beehive kilns and tunnel dryers were essentially the same when the plant shut down in 1977, no longer profitable.  Facing brick hadn’t made a comeback, PVC was eating away at the market for drainage tile, and the local cost of labour had risen.

Deliberations over the site involved the Provincial Ministry of Highways, who wanted to supplement the Lougheed corridor through central Maple Ridge.  The result was the Haney Bypass, which by design would have shaved off corners of the manager’s house and brickyard office.  The municipality was interested in converting the area for medium-density housing and preserving the industrial site as a public park.  The historical society, meanwhile, was lobbying to preserve the historic street grid and buildings of Port Haney to the west; an effort which failed.  The compromise, however, underpins the neighbourhood we know today: the Bypass went through, the manager’s house and yard office were moved several dozen feet uphill onto new foundations and leased to the Historical Society for the purpose of operating a museum, Hadgkiss Park was created, and the remaining land was divvied up for small garden apartments and townhouses.  The main sheds, beehive kilns, and remaining industrial landscape was demolished and the ground, burned.

P01520.  ND [1913].  ND [1913].  Labourers stacking bricks in the shipping yard.  Men lived in workers’ housing at the rear of the site and some remitted portions of their paycheques to families in far away Punjab and China.

Not quite all in a day’s work.