Pressed Brick & Dog Fights
The first major industrial building in the Glenwood area was the 1886 construction of the New England-Anderson Pressed Brick Works (970 Fellsway).
That company was founded in 1877 by James C. Anderson of Chicago; the Medford plant was opened in 1886. The company was well known in the 1880s, a period marked by its innovative use of architectural brick work. Anderson credited itself with developing products that were “full of artistic beauty and capabilities” out of a material more commonly associated with plain buildings. Anderson brick was said to have been used on some of the best buildings of the period, including over 100 buildings in New England, and was well known throughout the US and in Europe.
The Medford facility, which employed 75 workers in 1889, was one of three of the Anderson Company – the other two were in Chicago and New York. At their three plants, the Anderson Company produced a total of over 300,000 bricks a day in the 1890s, through a highly mechanized system they developed in-house. Green, unburned bricks were led through a series of tunnel kilns, heated by a perpetual fire fed by crude oil and hot enough to melt steel. The Glenwood facility alone contained eight steam-powered kilns. The quantity of bricks produced in this manner represented a major fuel efficiency over conventional brick production.
The New England-Anderson Pressed Brick Works followed a robust brick-making tradition already established in this part of Medford. Brick production took place here as early as the mid seventeenth century, and it was Medford’s chief business for over a century during the colonial period. By the nineteenth century the Bay State Brick Works, later the New England Brick Works, produced tens of millions of bricks annually at a large plant on the western side of Riverside Avenue.
But the New England-Anderson Brick Works seem to not have occupied the Glenwood buildings long. A newspaper report in 1896 referred to empty buildings in the area. In fact, the vacant factory had attracted the attention of the police, who broke up a major dog-fighting ring in the building in March of that year. The factory’s distinctive architecture, consisting of a large room adjoined by many small windowless kilns, provided numerous hiding places that hampered the police in their effort to pursue the criminals.
Forty-four people were arrested in a raid on the facility and one was shot and fatally wounded while trying to escape. The dogs, still fighting at the time of the raid, could not be separated or subdued and were also killed. All arrested pleaded guilty and were fined between $20 and $25. Two years later the complex was property of the Attleboro Savings Bank.
To be continued . . .
(Most of this history is taken from our surveyor’s Form A for the Glenwood Industrial Area, available here.)