November 19, 2013
Brick kiln fires up tomorrow, for the last time in 2013
The Colonial Williamsburg Brick Yard will put a wrap on 2013 by firing up the Brick Kiln one more time, beginning Wednesday, Nov. 20.
During this five-day event, the Brick Yard will be firing about 18,000 bricks, which visitors can observe from 9 a.m. through 10 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday, and 9 a.m.-5 p.m. on Sunday, Nov. 24.
About 1,000 of the bricks will be used to reinforce the church tower at Historic Jamestowne, according to Bill Neff, a journeyman in masonry trades at Colonial Williamsburg. The other bricks will be used in the Historic Area, most notably during the upcoming construction of the new Market House.
Firing the bricks makes them more durable in all kinds of inclement weather, including the rain and heat in the mid-Atlantic region. Bricks also were used in the construction of most chimneys during the era.
The kiln is essentially an oven, about 12 feet tall and 10 feet wide, with six tunnels across the bottom, explained Jason Whitehead, the Brick Yard’s supervisor. That’s where fires are started to produce the extreme heat needed to bake the bricks. The bricks, essentially mud and clay, are made at Colonial Williamsburg and placed in the kiln. Wood fires are started at both ends of each tunnel. It will take about four days for temperatures to reach the 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit.
Two shifts are needed to keep the fires going throughout the four days of firing. Two crews of masonry trades employees will work around the clock in 12-hour shifts.
The brick kiln is fired up only a few times each year, based on the need for bricks in the Historic Area and other special projects.
A regular Colonial Williamsburg admission ticket or Good Neighbor pass will be required to visit the Brick Yard during the firing of the bricks. No additional special ticket is needed.
The Brick Yard is located down the hill from Nicholson Street, between the Cabinet Maker and the Peyton Randolph House. It has been at its current location since 1998, although Colonial Williamsburg has had a Brick Yard since 1988.
The final firing ends at 5 p.m. on Sunday, Nov. 24. Following the conclusion of this special project, the Brick Yard will reopen again in Spring 2014.