The history of Guignard Brick Works in Columbia, SC

The four beehive kilns | Photo by @david_mcnamara

Have you seen these brick domes in Cayce?

The four, 18 ft. tall, 35 ft. round, floor-to-ceiling brick domes known as beehive kilns — are home to the oldest brick company in the United States called Guignard Brick Works, dating back to the 1800-1900s. 

A quick brick timeline:

🧱 Guignard Brick Works got its start in 1801 by a man named James Sanders Guignard I. James used clay deposits from the banks of the Congaree River to make bricks for personal use.

🧱 In 1850, the family began making + selling the bricks for commercial use after Guignard’s son, James Sanders Guignard II, took over the family business in 1856following his father’s death.

🧱 During the Civil War brick production stopped, and there was a gap in the family business until Gabriel Alexander GuignardJames Sanders Guignard I’s great-grandson — revived the business in the 1860’s. It became wildly successful, and by 1891, “G.A. Guignard, Brick Manufacturer” was producing approximately 2 million bricks a year

🧱 The Guignard Brick Works boomed with the textile industry + Columbia’s economy flourished. Gabriel Alexander Guignard expanded operations and built a private railroad to bring the clay and other materials to the plant that ran from the Congaree Banks to the Cayce rock quarry. 

🧱 Between 1895-1900, four cotton mills were built using Guignard bricks including Richland Mill, Granby Mill, Olympia Mill, and Capital City Mill. Sound familiar? Other buildings in Columbia built from Guignard bricks include the National Loan and Exchange Bank BuildingColumbia’s first skyscraper — Columbia Hospital, Hotel Jefferson, and the interior of the South Carolina State House.

Guignard Brick Works expanded across the state during the booming period, until it ceased operations in 1956 and was sold to Boral Bricks in 1976. The plant became an apartment complex + the beehive kilns still stand as a national historic site

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