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Three centuries ago Barrington had extensive clay deposits. Some bricks were made from the clay in the 17th century. From 1847 to 1943, bricks were made commercially in Barrington at the location of the present Brickyard Pond (south of Maple Avenue); a canal was dug from the clay pits to Narragansett Bay to permit easy shipment of the finished bricks via barge. That canal, now a creek, lies just north of the Rhode Island Country Club. From 1847 to 1877 there was the Narragansett Brick Company, from 1877 to 1894,the Nayatt Brick Company, from 1894 to 1912, the New England Steam Brick Company, and from 1912 to 1943, the Barrington Steam Brick Company. In 1943, the supply of clay gave out and the clay pits filled to form Brickyard Pond. A smaller amount of clay was also dug out in Hampden Meadows adjacent to the Palmer River.
Nick Gizzarelli, long time Barrington historian, has intimate knowledge of the Brickyard, as members of his family worked there. He knew many of the families of men who came to work in the brickyard around the turn of the century. The following was related by Nick to the writer in a July 1997 interview:
Nick's maternal grandfather came to Barrington first (prior to 1892) and became a boss at the brick yard. Nick's mother Angela was born in Barrington in 1892. Nick's father came to Barrington from Italy in 1908 and went to work in the brickyard. Nick was born in 1912.
Other Barrington families founded by brickyard workers were Cicerchia, Garbarra, Pezzulo, Vendetuli,Cioe, Lombardi, Medici, Zompa, Cuzzone, Dalessio, Desisto, Paolino, Andreozzi and Acciardo.
Bricks were originally delivered by horse and wagon. Frank J. Palumbo delivered 2000 bricks in a horse-drawn wagon to the site of the building of the Biltmore Hotel in Providence. Later, gasoline-powered trucks were used.
One truck collided with the train at West Street near the brickyard. In 1927, the brickyard totally burned down and subsequently had to be rebuilt. Nick witnessed the fire and he still has some fused bricks that came out of it.
Barrington bricks were all marked with a distinctive pattern depending on the name of the company at the time; Nick has bricks with each distinct set of markings. They were shipped all over the world. Some returning servicemen from Barrington saw Barrington bricks in Europe.
In peak operation in the winter, the yard would operate seven days a week, 24 hours a day.