Building with Moulded Brick: Historic, Stately and Modern

Drive through the streets of Baltimore or Washington, D.C. and you’ll see lines of rowhouses, hospitals, schools and government buildings constructed with moulded brick. These are brick cities, with long traditions of beautiful masonry. Clay and other raw materials are readily available throughout the Mid-Atlantic region and local plants have been producing moulded brick for more than 100 years – and most of these buildings are still standing strong.

Like all brick structures, moulded brick buildings are sturdy and long-lasting. But many architects feel this material has a “dated” or “old-fashioned” look and can’t be used to produce a modern appearance. And the permanence of moulded brick buildings only fuels this misconception. Moulded brick is versatile and can be used in numerous ways to create a striking contemporary building – both commercial and residential – outside of the traditional colonial architectural style many architects associate with it.

About Moulded Brick

The main two methods for manufacturing brick are through extrusion and moulding. Moulded brick is a brick that’s typically produced in a wooden mold. Clay (or shale) is used to create a soft mud and is then forced (by hand or machine) into a wood mold box. There’s also a dusting of sand inside the box to help the newly formed brick release smoothly. Moulded brick is incredibly versatile—shapes can easily be made and a wide variety of colors can be produced by adding iron oxide to the sand.

Moulded Brick: Rich History

Throughout Maryland and D.C., you’ll be treated to the historic grandeur of moulded brick buildings. It’s rich past and availability of raw materials throughout the Mid-Atlantic region make it a smart choice for architects who are looking to design buildings that not only modern but also sustainable.

Tom Sheridan, masonry specialist at Potomac Valley Brick, told Masonry Magazine, “there was a day when everybody made brick by hand. Today, there are only five or fewer companies making brick this way.” Cushwa Brick Co. (Cushwa) is one of the most notable manufacturers. Founded in 1872 on the banks of the Potomac River and C&O Canal in Williamsport, MD, Cushwa is one of the largest operating moulded brickmaking facilities in the country, to this day.

So, what do Cushwa bricks look like? All you need to do is look no further than Baltimore’s Camden Yards baseball stadium. Constructed next to the old red brick B&O Warehouse and considered one of the most beautiful baseball stadiums in the country, Camden Yards is constructed using Cushwa’s exclusive Camden Blend.

Making It Modern

The first bricks made in North American English colonies were likely crafted in Virginia as early as 1612. Brickmaking is not only a way to produce brick but also an art form. Using moulded brick in architecture creates a softer, smoother look that’s dignified, timeless and stately and matches seamlessly with other architectural elements such as glass, metal, concrete, stone and more.

As architects look to design more distinctive commercial, residential and institutional structures, brickmakers are continuing to evolve and inspire state-of-the-art and enduring designs. Unique shapes can produce interesting curved or angled walls, alternating different colors can create interesting depths and orientations, changing patterns can build visual interest and scale, all coming together to help elevate architectural style for small and large projects.


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