Before roads were paved with asphalt, what "topping" was used to provide a stable driving base? If you answered brick, you win the prize. Seems like a pretty bumpy ride driving over bricks but that was state of the art for road building in the early 1900's. When virtually the entire city of Seattle burned to the ground in 1889, what materials would you use to rebuild? Brick and clay pipe, of course. You can't fight fires without water and you need clay pipe to supply the water. You also need buildings that won't catch fire quite so easily. In addition, having roads that fire fighting equipment can be moved on without bogging down in the mud would sure help.
Seattle pioneer Arthur Denny was among the first to respond to the need for brick and pipe as rebuilding materials by establishing the Denny Clay Company and coal mining/clay processing plant at Taylor in 1892. A few years later in about 1901, several entrepreneurs joined together to build the Renton Clay plant, with this plant focused primarily on producing bricks for paving. Soon, forces were joined and the Denny Renton Coal and Clay Co. was born. Located on the west side of the Cedar River, the Renton plant was big.
Photo courtesy University of Washington Libraries, CUR790, Asahel Curtis photographer, circa 1910
The Renton plant at the time was thought to be the largest brick paving plant in the state, if not the country. It also appears to have been a rather "messy" process with clay particles from the furnaces spewed rather widely.
Photo courtesy University of Washington Libraries, CUR789, Asahel Curtis photographer, circa 1910
How were bricks made you ask? By "vitrifying" clay, heating it to over 2,000 degrees for several days until it is nearly liquid and turned to "glass" so as not to absorb moisture. Coal for fuel and clay for making bricks sure seems to have made a happy marriage and what better place than Renton close to the where the demand for paving bricks was the greatest in the state.
One of the best summaries of clay pipe and brick manufacturing history in the state has been published by Black Diamond History. You can find it at Renton History Built With Bricks. Well worth the read.