Clay City used to be a booming industrial spot outside Eatonville, behind Ohop Lake. The thousands of bricks it produced will be around for years to come, but the city that never really was, will probably fade as a memory.
Sitting on Clay
At the turn on the century Clay City would probably have just been a logging camp, but when you’re sitting on 600 acres of clay, it’s easier to build bricks than log.
The Far West Lumber Company formed the Far West Clay Company and the Clay City plant opened in 1907.
“The kilns, seven in all, were an unusual dome-shape brick structure, several feet tall. The machinery used to run the dryers and heat the kilns operated on steam power. The initial plan was to use waste wood to fire the boilers, but testing determined it was more cost-effective to use coal.” (In the Shadow of the Mountain)
The place was busy and people came. There was a Clay City School, a store, a boarding house and from 1908 to 1922 Clay City even had a post office.
Clay City had a hard time weathering the depression. Rumor has it that the company had to use materials from some of its other buildings to fuel the boilers. Population dropped to 15 by the 1930s.
In an article “A City That Isn’t” that ran in the Eatonville Dispatch in 1979, Don B. Goddard writes, “After years of on-and-off operation, Clay City was puchased in 1944 by the Houlihan family. They spent two years renovating the plant operations, then continued production for about four years.
A fire in November, 1950 destroyed all that wasn’t brick.
Today there are six kilns producing in excess of 2,500 tons of brick and tile a month, which finds its way to every corner of the Northwest and Hawaii.”
1979 still going strong
In 1979, 180 standard bricks could be produced every minute. The raw mud bricks were sent to dryers and after 88 hours at 225 degrees they were ready for the oven. The bricks spent 90 hours in the ovens at 2,000 degrees and then several more days cooling.
Want to know the real story behind Clay City? Al Grazter would know it. The Eatonville resident worked there for over 30 years.