Side Story: New Life for Historic Brick-Making Area


April 2009



Columbia, S.C., lies at the confluence of three rivers: The Broad and Saluda come together to form the Congaree. Clay deposits made by fluctuations in water levels along the banks of the Congaree over geologic time made for an ideal location for brick-making as the city grew from the early-1800s.

In Cayce, S.C., just across the river, Guignard Brick Works, widely considered one of the oldest working brick-making facilities in the United States, is being cleaned up and cleared in order to install infrastructure in the form of roads, water, sewage and storm drainage systems on the 16-plus acres of this site.

As this location is rejuvenated, the four beehive kilns and an old, brick office building – both on the National Historic Register – will add to a sense of place, giving the overall development unique character.

“When everything’s completed, we hope to develop the site with some retail space, office space and residential space to create a vibrant, mixed-use atmosphere,” says Charlie Thompson, project manager for Thompson Co., a commercial property management company in Columbia, S.C. “This will all be organized around a town square feature in the center.”

The nearly 200-year-old industrial site is having its old, extensive paddocks, rail, bricks and iron processed and re-introduced onto the site. “We’re trying to take as ‘green’ an approach to this as possible by reusing on site much of the material directly from the ground,” says Thompson.  Demolished concrete is placed into a crusher and recycled, and then re-introduced to the roads as a required stone base. The great quantities of muck onsite are being bridged with sand and a sand-clay mixture.

The existing apartments at nearby Granby Crossing, occupying a portion of the old Guignard Brick Works, and the bank will form bookends to the development. “We’re now addressing the heart of the property to make it more marketable and more appealing,” says Thompson. As a planned development, it will be architecturally controlled.

The site has been owned by the Guignard family, who first began making bricks here in the early-1830s. The clay was extracted from the riverbank below the Works. The Brick Works facility closed during the Civil War. But the Reconstruction Era led to an increased demand for bricks, and the Works was reopened and continued on until the mid-20th century, when it was moved out to Highway 1 and I-20. It is known today as Boral Bricks.

“The brick making went through a whole evolution in process with how the bricks were fired and the automation involved in making them,” adds Thompson. “We’ve had to remove not only the topsoil and the organics to get them out of the way as they’ve started to undercut these roads, but also the old debris, including antique brick fragments from the old operations. The location contained many old roads with old-time potholes filled with spent bricks. We’re trying to sift that material, screen it and then re-introduce it into the soil.

“The concrete goes through the crusher, where the steel is separated out and turned into crusher rod. This is a tremendous onsite recycling effort,” Thompson says. “No crushed stone whatsoever will have to be brought into the site; we’re simply crushing the concrete already on the site.”

Once the concrete is ripped up and ground, the various components of the infrastructure will then be installed. The site will be used for mixed uses, including commercial applications such as shopping centers, office buildings and condominiums. Joey Coogler of Coogler Construction and his assistants provided all the equipment needed to do this job and assemble this innovative operation.

“We’ve been involved in this project for the last 10 years,” says Ken Knudsen, Cayce city planner. “It’s something that has finally gotten off the ground now. It’s great for the City of Cayce.”

Brick Works provided brick for Columbia to be built not once, but twice. Now, this historic part of South Carolina will get a second life, across from the state’s capital.

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