Editor’s Note: This is the 375th in a series of articles recalling vanished Huntington scenes.
In her “The Lost Village of Barboursville,” historian Jeanette M. Rowsey writes that “even before the Civil War small brick-making plants had lined the Guyandotte River.” An abundance of natural gas to heat the furnaces and thick layers of clay between the local topsoil and the bedrock “provided the raw material for a very good grade of red building brick.”
Many of the stately homes erected in Barboursville’s earliest years were built from locally produced brick.
In 1904, Barboursville businessman George Thornburg opened a large modern brick factory on the village’s Peyton Street. Thornburg’s brickyard was named either the Guyan Valley Brick Company or the Barboursville Brick Company (sources differ). It produced 75 types and colors of brick and tile from a thick deposit of gray sandy shale and sandy river clay.
Thornburg’s brickyard proved a prosperous venture and even gained a bit of notoriety when, in 1921, it was chosen to supply tile for a major remodeling project at the White House.
Later in the 1920s, Claude Wiseman purchased the brickyard, and his family would continue to operate it for more than 50 years. Wiseman changed the company’s name to the Barboursville Clay Manufacturing Company. (No matter what the company’s official name, over the years most people in Barboursville simply called it “the Brickyard.”)
By the 1970s, the company employed more than 50 people and sold more than 20 million bricks per year. It closed in 1979.
In 2003, the city of Barboursville paid $1.5 million to acquire the 20-acre property. A 2004 environmental study found asbestos and petroleum in the ground at the long-closed plant and high levels of arsenic in its smokestacks. A cleanup was performed and in 2007 the storied brickyard was demolished.