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Guignard Bricks, Knox Abbot Drive: 1960s(?)   20 comments

Posted at 1:31 am in Uncategorized

I'm not sure I can ever remember Guignard Bricks actually being in operation, but the circular kilns of the defunct brickworks have been a Cayce landmark all of my life.

I was interested then when I noticed the the land around the old works is being cleared, and that new roads are being driven into it, so I parked across the street and hiked in. It was late afternoon, and the light angling in from the west made for perfect picture taking. I've made myself jetison most of the shots, but there are still an awful lot after the jump.

I'm sure the yard was much more extensive during operation, but what is left is a row of the domed, circular brick kilns, the tram tracks connecting them, and across a brick (presumably Guignard brick) plaza, an operations building of some sort (also presumably of Guignard bricks). The work permit on the building indicates that all the work is for an expansion of the adjacent condos, and I'm hopeful that they will be mindful of the history of the place and leave these old structures in place for the residents to enjoy.

All of the kilns except one are empty, but the exception seems to have an awfully lot of odd items in it. I'd particularly like to know the story behind the scooter that figures prominently in several shots!

UPDATE 14 July 2009: If you enjoyed this blog post, you can buy products printed with some of these images at the Columbia Closings web store.

UPDATE 26 July 2009: Commenter Melanie has found an interesting write-up about the brickworks.

Also, I went back a week or so ago, and noticed that there must be (or have been) a good bit of stuff under the plaza -- there's an air-shaft leading down there.

Written by ted on May 10th, 2009

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20 Responses to 'Guignard Bricks, Knox Abbot Drive: 1960s(?)'

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  1. You can hike through the area where the Guignards mined the clay used to make bricks over in Cayce. It's now part of the Congaree Heritage Preserve, which is big expanse of swampy woods near the river with tons of history attached.

    There are huge rectangluar ponds now where they took the clay.

    Guignard was mentioned in Have Your Say back in Dec., here's my recycled comment from then:

    When I was in college (late 70s) Guingnard was still making bricks over there. They also had a giant mound of used bricks from demolitions and would pay about a penny apiece for you to stand there and carefully clean all the mortar off them with these little hammers they had.

    The mill that is now the State Museum was still operating too. We art students used to go buy canvas by the pound right off the loom to stretch into paintings.

    By Dennis on Dec 2, 2008


    10 May 09 at 5:37 am

  2. Very good pics. I must say. I'm gonna have to go over there and get some pictures of these also. Is there anyone here in Columbia that would be interested in going around town and takeing pics of what old buildings and houses that are left that havent been torn down? If so, let me know..


    10 May 09 at 6:00 pm

  3. thanks for this. I've always wondered what those things were.

    Mr Bill

    11 May 09 at 8:36 am

  4. I Lived in Granby Crossing for several years over looking the brick yard on the third floor. What a great view that was. In fact, I use to tell visitors to my apartment about the screams and often ghostly figures I would see walking out of the brick kilns. You know when Sherman marched through Columbia he burned several Confederate soldiers in those kilns. Anyways, it always scared the shit out of everyone who spent the night with me over there and they we're always good conversation while having a guest over. You know, during the spring the kilns rounded brick tops have grass that grow out off the top. They look just like Chi'Chia plants!


    8 Jul 09 at 7:18 pm

  5. This site has a good general background info on the Guignard Bricks. :)

    Melanie Gallant

    25 Jul 09 at 4:20 pm

  6. Thanks, I've added that to the main post as well.


    26 Jul 09 at 12:30 am

  7. That scooter is an old Cushman before they went with green paint. Cushman's are used for hauling tools and parts around large work sites and golf courses.


    26 Jul 09 at 6:23 am

  8. Scott- Having spent 15 years researching Sherman's march into Columbia and being in the final stages of a book about it, I can assure you that no soldiers were killed in those kilns. First there were no Confederates in that area when Sherman came through and second, those kilns were not there in 1865.


    26 Jul 09 at 10:25 am

  9. Tom,

    Even though you are correct, I like Scott's story better.


    27 Jul 09 at 8:02 am

  10. Never let the facts ruin a good ghost story.


    27 Jul 09 at 1:47 pm

  11. Southern First, the new bank on site, is having the property developed for biz and residential. I was advised there will be an apt bldg and businesses on this site. I was hoping it would be condos. Kind of hate to add more people to this quaint little town but Cayce is so relaxing I can see why anyone would want to live here.


    1 Aug 09 at 7:34 am

  12. When I was a child back in the fifties I would occasionally see a train of rail cars loaded with bricks pulled by a small 4 wheel locomotive across Kvox Abbott Dr. to an interchange with the old Seaboard Railroad. The tracks were either removed from the street or covered up but you can still tell where the right-of-way was.

    David Paschal

    22 Mar 10 at 4:28 pm

  13. I worked in this office for a short period of time before we moved to the Lexington location. I really appreciate the photography and have fond memories of the kilns.

    Johnette Jeffcoat

    7 Dec 11 at 2:19 pm

  14. Guignard Bricks was still a going concern in the 50s - 70s. The yard along Knox Abbott Dr. was filled with baked bricks, ready to sell, stacked in massive piles about half the size of a semi-trailer.

    David is right about the little train engine and the track. I noticed it for years, always wondered why the engine looked so small and different from the massive engines I saw pulling long trains. Later learned that it was a style called a yard engine or a switch engine; not intended for pulling long trains, just for moving a few cars short distances, so they could be marshalled onto real trains or delivered along a local siding. The track pretty much paralleled the river from the brickyard to where it switched into a larger line in Cayce. In the late 50s and early 60s, the little engine was often parked on the tracks on the south side of Knox Abbott Dr. Compared to the big diesel engines, this looked like a kid's go kart next to a Cadillac. As a kid, I daydreamed about stealing that little engine and joyriding around the countryside ;-)

    One factoid I learned Guignard came from a traveling salesman I met in a local bar one night. He sold specialty chemicals. Said one thing his company developed and sold were specialty lubricants for brickyards, and Guignard was a customer. I naively asked, for what, lubricating molds so the bricks'll pop out? (I figured they could just use Crisco or something). He told me that the product was actually a wheel bearing lubricant. For carts they used to move stacks of bricks in and out of kilns, they had to use special lubricants that were resistant to -- and would still effectively lubricate at -- the high temperatures inside kilns. I thought, duh! of course they need something like that.

    One one of my trips back to Columbia years later, I noticed the brickyard was apparently long-closed. Another piece of SC history fallen by the wayside. That's progress I guess.


    9 Feb 12 at 2:12 pm

  15. The Greenway has two plaques that tell about the switching locomotive. One is at the Blossom Street Bride, the other is a hundred yards or so from the Lyles Street entrance, near the apartments, where the brickyard tracks used to pass under the main RR tracks.


    10 Feb 12 at 7:41 am

  16. This place interests me as a railroad enthusiast and just tonight, my family and I the old railroad bed near the main entrance to Cayce Riverwalk. There was still a long area where railroad ties were still lined up and we found a few railroad spikes to boot!

    When I moved to Columbia in 2006, there was still an underpass under the old Southern Railway line (now Norfolk Southern) but they have since filled that in. I guess they waited to be sure the brick yard woujldn't suddenly open back up!

    On down in Cayce Riverwalk, there appears to be whistle posts still inn the ground. I'm not sure the exact route of the old railroad, so I'm not sure of this at this time.

    Joe Hinson

    13 Aug 12 at 9:14 pm

  17. When I was a kid, there were more of those abandoned kilns that had been overgrown on the river's side of Alexander Road. I also remember riding my bike down to their Railroad Tracks and playing on the rusting red locomotive (GE 40 ton, I believe) that sat in the terminus of their Railroad. The last time the Railroad was in operation was in 1969, as I have dim recollections of my parents stopping for the train, and them pointing it out to me. The Guinyard clay pit was located somwhere in the Gaston/Pine Ridge/ Swansea area.

    In 1974 and 1975 the tracks and right of way gates and signals were still there, but in 1976 (the year that I rode my bike down to the Guinyard plant), the tracks had been paved over, but they were still visible under the pavement.


    18 May 13 at 10:24 am

  18. I also remember as a child having to stop for the yard train as it would periodically cross knox abbott drive (late '60s). I would also play in the woods around the Guignard mansion, which is now the main building for Still Hopes. The property was wooded from essentially 9th street to state street and from c avenue to f avenue. There were peacocks in the woods and my father and I hiked in and I remember him finding sassafras and making sassafras tea. In the basement to the old Guignard mansion, there were hundreds if not thousands of old south carolina dispensary bottles... my what those things would be worth today!


    18 Nov 13 at 8:16 pm

  19. When I was a kid in the 50's we lived a few blocks from the Guignard family and were friends with their children. Along with the two youngest Guignard kids my brother and I got to ride on the old switch engine one Saturday morning. Mr. Bruno, the brickyard manager fired up the engine for us and drove. We went all the way to the end of the tracks down by the two railroad trestles. The most exciting part was being able to blow the horn. It was quite the rush for small kids. I still remember that day. I also remember old flat cars being parked down the line at some point.

    I used to have a lot of fun playing around the brick yard with the Guignard kids. I remember watching loads of bricks being moved into the old kilns ,and how hot the kilns got once they were cooking the bricks. This was in the mid 50's so they were still using them around then.


    26 Nov 14 at 7:35 pm

  20. I know of the Bruno Family. I was friends with Elizabeth and Jimmy Bruno. Jimmy drowned back in the 70's on the River from what I was told. Elizabeth and I attended the old Heathwood Hall School when it was still in Heathwood. She told me that her Dad drove/operated that train. This would have been in the mid to late 60's.


    28 Nov 14 at 1:44 pm

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