sand brick collection
IN CASE THEY’RE NEEDED — Sand-lime bricks rescued from demolition activities stand ready in storage on the Conrad Property in Downtown DeLand, which is home to both The West Volusia Beacon offices and Artisan Alley. These bricks will be used if repairs are needed on the property, to match the sand-lime brick used nearly 100 years ago to build the historic Conrad buildings.


The process of making bricks from pressurized sand and lime was discovered by scientists in Germany, but these sand-lime bricks helped shape West Volusia.

In 1904, the Bond Sandstone Brick Co. in Lake Helen obtained exclusive German patents to manufacture these bricks. 

bond lumber mill lake helen
ENTERPRISING FAMILY — This photo depicts the Bond Lumber Mill in Lake Helen in about 1915. First established to construct orange crates, the mill expanded into construction materials, a fitting companion to the enterprising family’s other Lake Helen business, the Bond Sandstone Brick Co., which was established in 1904.

Sandstone bricks were popular and had many uses. Today, buildings made with these bricks can be found all over Volusia County, and all over Florida.

Jacksonville’s Union Station, St. Augustine’s ice plant and newspaper building, Orlando’s downtown and Tampa landmarks come to mind.

The Bond company also supplied all of the bricks needed to shore up the bulkhead and build the wall around Lake Monroe in Sanford. That job would inadvertently lead to the company’s demise, but more about that later in this piece.

Locally, the Volusia County Historic Courthouse, the Conrad buildings in Downtown DeLand that surround Artisan Alley, and many other buildings were built with these fireproof bricks.

Most of these were built following the great fire in 1886 that destroyed Downtown DeLand’s wooden structures, and caused city leaders to mandate brick construction.

Preserve and protect
Because of the historic importance of sand-lime brick, the MainStreet DeLand Association has recently formed a committee to document the sandstone brick buildings in Downtown DeLand, and to work with the City of DeLand and others to determine how best to preserve and protect these buildings.

Today we are surrounded by these Bond Sandstone Brick Co. buildings, but my ties to the company go back even further.

My great-great-grandfather E.W. Bond had three sons. The interests of two of them, Frank E. Bond and Robert M. Bond, were taken by the possibilities of manufacturing sandstone brick.

With the assistance of their father, they founded the Bond Sandstone Brick Co., which began operations in February of 1904. 

It was the first plant of its kind in the South, and an edition of The Florida Agriculturist dated Jan. 17, 1906, boasted that the plant had a daily output 50,000 bricks per 10-hour day. 

By about 1914, the third son, Maynard, who had been at the head of the Bond lumber company in Lake Helen, found himself also at the helm of the brick plant. Frank Bond and E.W. Bond had both died, and brother Robert had moved to the mountains for his health. 

First, the research

Before investing in the business, Frank and Robert Bond visited all the sandstone brick plants in the U.S. and Canada, thoroughly acquainting themselves with the various methods of manufacture. 

At first, an experimental plant was built for testing sand and lime from various parts of the state. The experiments proved that a superior grade of sand was available at Lake Helen. 

A company was organized, and the rights to control the valuable German patents, with exclusive rights to manufacture in the state of Florida, were secured.

Many buildings

Many commercial buildings and private residences throughout the state were built with “Bond Bricks.” Another in DeLand is the law office building at 110 W. Indiana Ave., originally the home of the Perkins and Landis firm, and still in use.

Recalling what I heard from family members, friends and Sallie Mae Clarkson — whose husband A.D. Clarkson was hired the day after he graduated from Stetson University as secretary and treasurer of the Bond operations in Lake Helen — Bond bricks were used in many buildings all over Florida.

The Lake Helen company was a member of the Sandstone Brick Association, whose records document the many other places where this type of brick was used.

hotel putnam postcard
FIREPROOF — This postcard advertising the sand-lime brick Hotel Putnam as a “modern, fireproof” building with “150 rooms of comfort” is from the book Postcards of Historic DeLand, Florida, written by Bill Mancinik of DeLand and featuring postcards from the collection of DeLandite Randy Jackson. The book is available at The Muse Bookshop in Downtown
DeLand, as well as at The Beacon newspaper office, and sales benefit the West Volusia Historical Society.

Nearly every large building in downtown Dayton, Ohio, for example, was faced on two or more sides with sandstone bricks mainly because the bricks were fireproof.

The “fireproof” aspect was a main feature used in advertising the Putnam Hotel.

German findings

How and why did sandstone brick become an instant hit and so popular in Germany? The Germans turned to automation, greatly reducing the cost of production by not needing to have such a huge investment in molds. 

The faces of the brick were much cleaner than common brick, and production time was greatly reduced.

In Germany, it was discovered that if freshly pressed bricks of sand and lime were subject to several hours of pressure under steam heat, the result would be a silicate of calcium, which is a little like an automobile glass in its resistance to acids, yet having many of the good properties of glass with none of the defects as a building material.

Using a fast-setting high-strength mortar combined with Portland cement and adding a percentage of masonry lime was expedient, as well. 

The mortar could be colorized for contrast just as the sandstone brick that came in three distinct colors — white, buff or red. 

Stetson’s Interest

Stetson University was a stockholder of the Bond Sandstone Brick Co., and several of the prominent buildings on campus, including the Sampson Library, Cummings Gym and Conrad Hall, were built with our brick, bearing in mind that to be eligible and approved for a grant from the Andrew Carnegie Foundation, building plans and materials had to be considered. 

Today, the old library still stands as stately as ever, south of the Holler Fountain.

While the outside of Stover Theater was made of common brick, the inside wall was built with Bond Brick, because plaster could be applied directly to the brick with no need for lathing, and the inside would thus be considered fireproof.

PLANNING A RAILWAY — E.W. Bond, father of the founders of the Lake Helen sandstone brick company, is depicted in this painting by Louis Freund, which hangs in a stairwell inside the Historic Volusia County Courthouse. In this painting, according to an explanatory plaque, E.W. Bond, kneeling at the tree stump, is going over plans for his Orange Ridge, DeLand and Atlantic rail system with Cyrenius Wright, the first mayor of DeLand.

After sorting through piles of documents containing history, testimonies, Underwriters Laboratory tests, pictures, etc., I passed most of the information along to Mark Shuttleworth, who was working on the grant for the Wright Building, which was built of Bond brick (although it had been painted over), and to Sydney Johnston, who has documented most of the historic buildings in our area.

Lost forever

Many of our sandstone-brick buildings have been demolished, including the old DeLand City Hall, which housed the police and fire station, and some of DeLand’s finest homes, including Robert and Louise Bond’s American arts-and-crafts home, where St. Peter Catholic Church now stands.

sand-lime brick building deland
THE BOND HOME IN DELAND — Among DeLand’s sand-lime brick buildings that have been demolished over the years is this home that once stood in the 400 block of West New York Avenue. It was torn down to make way for St. Peter Catholic Church. This postcard is another featured in the book Postcards of Historic DeLand, Florida.


I will mention some of what have been portrayed as drawbacks of sandstone brick, which often gets called “sand brick,” even though there is no such thing as just plain sand brick.

A few years ago, a local architect reported that the foundation of a house to be moved was uneven because of the sandstone brick piers underneath. 

But, even houses built of common brick, which was all that was available in 1885-86, would settle, because the northerners who built them were not familiar with Florida soil that settled more easily under pressure. 

Subsequently, the only areas underneath a house that did not settle were around the chimneys, because they had adequate footers underneath. 

In the case of the house where I live in Lake Helen, my great-grandfather had a line of Bond brick installed under the main part of the house for additional support for the common brick.

The drawbacks of sandstone brick are the same, in most instances, as the drawbacks of common brick, which is usually made of clay. There’s an exception: It’s easier to use a pocketknife to inscribe “Boy Loves Girl” or “Girl Loves Boy,” in sandstone brick, as on the old Bank of Lake Helen building.

Walls can crack when foundations settle using either type of brick.

The author of the editorials in Logging magazine mentions meeting Maynard Bond at the Putnam Hotel, and this writer devoted two-and-one-half pages of his article in praise of DeLand and Stetson University — its beauty, its fine streets, and its air of prosperity.

He summed things up regarding the Bonds’ various operations in Lake Helen by saying, “They may have located in comparatively isolated places in relation to the rest of the U.S., but they were exceptionally successful and boasted a thriving business.”

Things went well until the big job with the City of Sanford, supplying the brick for the wall around Lake Monroe. The City of Sanford declared bankruptcy and never paid for the sandstone brick. As a result, the Bond Sandstone Brick Co. had to close its doors in 1930.

— Long is a retired U.S. Air Force chaplain. He lives in Lake Helen with his wife, Caryn.


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