Architectural Word(s) of the Week: Brick Face Names

This is sort of a word of the week post. Below is a chart that defines the name of different faces that a brick can be laid. Having this handy chart will help decipher today’s post.  brick-faces

A while back I came across the old Fire Station in Tchula, Holmes County. It’s a pretty neat building with lots of detail for a utilitarian building in a small town. The building is T-shaped with the engine bay projecting towards the street in front of what I presume are quarters for the firefighters. The gable end vent with a dated keystone reading 1936 is what initially attracted me to the building, but upon further inspection I noticed on either side of the engine bay walls are decorative brick panels.

Tchula Fire Department. Front Street Tchula, Holmes County, Miss. June, 2016 from google street view accessed 1-13-17

Tchula Fire Department. Front Street Tchula, Holmes County, Miss. June, 2016 from google street view accessed 1-13-17

On an otherwise normal red brick building laid-up in running-bond, the north and south walls have a decorative panel bound with a darker red soldier course. These panels are infilled with English-bond course alternating red brick headers with the darker red for stretchers. On the south side of the building above a doorway there is a panel of all headers, alternating red and dark red, all bound with a dark red rowlock header.

My initial thought is that the design might have been an outcome of laying the brick in a way that would strengthen the wall, but only the walls on either side of the engine bay have the panels.  The rear wall expanses do not have such panels.  I am impressed by the level of thought and craftsmanship that went into this little building. So hats off to the mason in Tchula who brightened my day over 80 years beyond his labor. Brick panels are an oft employed decorative feature on brick buildings. They help bring detail to an otherwise blank brick wall. But unlike the Tchula Fire department panels tucked away on side walls, these panels are often very prominent. Take the following examples for instance.

Waveland School

Waveland School, Waveland.  Built c.1927.  Architect Unknown.

Sacred Heart Academy. Biloxi, MS

Sacred Heart Academy, Biloxi.  Built 1933.  John T. Collins, Archt.

Crystal Springs High School

Crystal Springs High School, Crystal Springs.  Built 1928.  Claude H. Lindsley, Archt.

Duling School. Jackson, Hinds County. Feb 6, 2007 J. Rohl, MDAH from MDAH HRI db accessed 1-15-17

Duling School, Jackson.  Built 1927.  Claude H. Lindsley, Archt.

I just realized that all the examples that came to my head are school buildings. Are there any examples that are not schoolhouses?  Surely there maybe some courthouse examples out there.

Brick detail, Lamar Life Annex

Corner detail, Lamar Life Annex

Lamar Life Annex, Jackson.  Built 1928.  Architect Unknown.

One I can think of that is not an educational building is the Lamar Life Annex Building. On the side of the building is a partially covered brick panel.  Another is a charming c.1930s house in Biloxi that has a brick panel infilled with a triple basket weave bond.

What are some other examples of structures with brick panels can you think of?  Are there any brick panels that date to outside the narrow time frame our examples come from (1927-1936?)  If you know of a brick panel in your neck of Mississippi, try your hand at describing the panel in the comment section below using the brick face vocabulary above.

Follow up:  This post was written before the tornado in Hattiesburg & Petal.  Photos of the devastation brought to my attention a brick panel on the c.1950 Cottrell Memorial CME Church which was severely damaged, though Pastor Archelous Knox has vowed to rebuild.  The street-facing gable end had two arched brick panels infilled with a Flemish bond.  I know the MissPres universe wishes them the best of luck in their restoration efforts.  If there is something we can do to help please let us know.


Categories: Biloxi, Crystal Springs, Historic Preservation, Jackson, Schools, Waveland


19 replies

  1. Excellent post Mr. Rosell!!! WOW – the Tchula firehouse is awesome. Enjoyed looking at all of this fancy brick work. The bottom photo is heartbreaking. I hope they put it back exactly like it was. Brick masons fascinate me. The good ones truly are artists. Thank you for all these great photos and brick info.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. What a wonderful, wonderful post! I have long known about headers and stretchers, but boy am I glad to learns about the other four terms. Thanks!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. As the descendant of sailors, I’m not sure, but I think I’m offended by the difference between sailor and soldier bricks, although I admit I can’t really say it’s inaccurate. . .

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Margaret Martin School

    I like this creative brickwork–lots of soldiers surrounding the word Truth–on Margaret Martin School in Natchez (1927, P.J. Krouse), another school.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Wow a plethora of brick faces, bonds, and colors! Excellent example. Another school house too.


      • It’s interesting that so many schools used brick in these decorative ways – I wonder if it had anything to do with materials costs at the time. It might have been cheaper than investing in other options such as terra cotta that you see on other brick buildings

        Liked by 1 person

        • That is an excellent question I’m not sure I know the answer to. As cost of a project was often based on units laid, I wonder if there was an up-charge based on the complexity of the pattern or bond. That up-charge may have been less than the cost of a terracotta, or a cast stone panel, all while producing a more visually interesting surface. Does anyone know of a Masons office records that are archived some where? I’ll have to ask some of the older masons I know about unit pricing for different types of work back in the day.


          • I didn’t think about the intricate layouts adding to the overall cost – but that makes sense because of the need for more masonry skill to pull it off.


            • That’s what I’m not sure of, if there would be an upchage for “fancy” work. There isn’t necessarily any more skill than what is already required to layup the wall in the first place. Likely it was either billed by unit laid, or by time spent. But I’m not sure. Also it could have varied from project to project if it was billed by time or by unit price.


        • Also I think schools had specific need for regulating sunlight from certain directions, along with a need for a chalkboard wall-space unobstructed by windows. But there are other MissPresers that know lots more about school construction than I do. Hopefully they’ll chime in!


  5. The Biloxi Saenger Theater is another example of a commercial building with Brick Panels on the front facade.

    Saenger Theatre---Biloxi, Ms.


  6. Thank you so much for this brick lesson and all the examples. I’m inspired to look for examples in Greenwood and Leflore County. And as many times as I’ve driven through Tchula (always under the speed limit, you do not want to meet the police chief), I have never seen the fire station. Fascinating.

    Liked by 1 person

    • You’re absolutely welcome. Please come back and share the examples you find with us! We sometimes never know what is around us until we think about things in a new light. At first I could only come up with school house examples.


  7. You should look at two eighteenth century brick outbuildings at Laurel Hill, south of Natchez. Believed to be earliest example of Dutch bond in state and possibly the oldest extant brick work in Mississippi.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I am only speaking of bricklayers and not all masonry trades.


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