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The Weather Network
May. 27, 2020 | Wednesday
Editorials and Opinions
ArchiText: Canadians love bricks and mortar
Patterns - left to right - Modern Running Bond, Common Bond & Flemish Bond. (Brian Marshall/Special)

Since our earliest settlement days, Canadians have had a love affair with bricks.

Whatever the source of this attraction might have been, the fact is that commercial production of brick began in Niagara-on-the-Lake during roughly the same timeframe as the earliest commercial sawmills were opened.

Imagine the activity in the 1790s at McFarland’s Brick Works, where workers mixed native clay with water to make the slurry that was then hand-packed into forms to produce wet rectangles, which likely were laid out to dry in the sun.

Picture other hands stacking the dry clay blocks in a wood-fired kiln wherein the bricks were baked for one and a half to two days. The process required constant feeding of the fire to maintain the high temperatures needed to make the molecular changes that produce a hardened brick.

Distinctly different than today’s brick veneer, which is merely an exterior cladding, the brick of 18th- and 19th-century houses supported both roof and the interior structure.

To deal with the structural stress, the walls were several bricks (wythes) deep and needed to be cross-tied by bricks laid at 90 degrees (headers) for stabilization.

Over the centuries, several different patterns or “bonds” were developed, depending on structural requirements and the owner’s budget.

Here in Niagara-on-the-Lake the most often used structural pattern was the common bond in which between three and nine layers (courses) of brick were laid end-to-end (stretchers) at least two wythes (five wythes being common) thick followed by a course of “headers” and then repeated up the wall.

Rarer, but more structurally sound, the Flemish bond alternated headers and stretchers in each course all the way up the wall.

Both John McFarland’s home on Niagara River Parkway and the Field House just a little farther toward Queenston were built of the bricks from McFarland’s works. While 219 years of weather has left its mark, those handmade bricks are still doing just fine.