History of Brickmaking and Butterfly Lake

History of Brickmaking

Brickmaking dates back to 7,000 BC. In the Americas, bricks were used as early as 1611 in Virginia. In 1817, John and Henry Horlbeck purchased this land known as Wampancheone, now Brickyard and Boone Hall. As building contractors, they constructed many of the buildings throughout Charleston. State requirements for brick buildings following the 1838 Charleston fire, helped brickmaking become a bustling industry. By the mid-1800s, approximately 4,000,000 hand-made bricks were being made at Brickyard, becoming the largest brickmaking industry in the Lowcountry. These bricks were first used for the plantation settlement and then used on buildings throughout the Lowcountry and colonial Charleston. The Horlbeck family was responsible for building the new Charleston Exchange and Custom House (1770), German Friendly Society Hall (1801), St. John’s Lutheran Church (c. 1817), and St. Stephen’s Chapel (1836).

Butterfly Lake

Once solid ground, this lake held the exact combination of red clay and sand needed to create what is now referred to as “Charleston brick”. In the early 1800s, the process of excavating the clay and sand was achieved at the hands of enslaved workers who toiled daily to excavate the rich soil. Slaves then used animals from neighboring Boone Hall Plantation to constantly trod through the wet mud. That effort helped dry the clay and allowed enslaved workers to clear away the twigs and debris. From there, the bricks were then molded and completely dried, before sent to the kilns for firing. Butterfly Lake was so named because of the shape made from unearthing the tons of clay and sand. While workers knew that their hard labor helped to build Charleston and surrounding areas, they may not have known that the land they carved out was actually the shape of a butterfly.