You’ll encounter bricks with the name “Hidden” in unexpected places like Grass Valley Park in Camas. You’ll also see historic buildings built with the iconic red bricks throughout central Vancouver. The bricks are not “hidden” at all. The name “Hidden” is an important part of Vancouver history.
The Hidden Brickworks
Lowell Mason Hidden, born in 1823 in Vermont, has a personal history not unusual for boys from impoverished families of that era. According to HistoryLink.org, his family could not afford to raise him, so at age six he was given to a farmer who promised to educate him in return for farm work.
The farmer didn’t keep his word, so Hidden, at age 13, left to seek his fortune in the world. He did farm work in Vermont, saved some money and eventually sailed to San Francisco to seek employment. With his solid history of farm work, he was quickly hired by a businessman to work his farm in Vancouver.
Once he became established in Vancouver, he continued in farm work and was hired by the city to build a dock on the Columbia River to replace one that had been damaged by flooding. Once that project was completed, the entrepreneurial Hidden looked for more opportunities and found them. Hidden saw a need for fencing, so opened a fence rail business. That was successful, so he bought land and built a log cabin.
He kept seeking opportunities in a growing town and found them. He married and eventually saw the need for bricks. He opened the Hidden Brick Company in 1871.
Lowell Hidden didn’t plan to become a successful owner of a brick works. He just sought out a need and filled it. He opened the Hidden Brick Company at 15th and Main just in time to provide the building material for Mother Joseph’s Providence Academy school and orphanage, which still stands as a Vancouver landmark.
Many of Vancouver’s downtown buildings, including the St. James Cathedral, were built with bricks from the Hidden Brick Company. It has been estimated that 60 million bricks were made there.
Eventually, the Hidden family purchased ten acres at 26th and Kauffman for a brick yard. The property is still owned by the Hidden Brothers.
Hidden Family Contributions
It isn’t just about Lowell Hidden and his bricks. There are additional Hidden family members who contributed to the growth of Vancouver, and additional businesses that were founded here in Clark County. When Hidden married, he brought his new wife to Vancouver from Vermont. At that time, Lowell Hidden’s oldest brother, Arthur, came, as well.
They operated The Pacific House Hotel, owned by Esther Short, until Lowell opened the brick company. Arthur Hidden planted the first prune orchard at 26th and Main and operated a prune dryer. That became the impetus for Clark County’s prune industry.
Lowell Hidden’s brother Oliver then came to Vancouver and became an architect. His brother Jackson became a fruit grower in Clark County.
According to BrickCollecting.com, Lowell Hidden was responsible for additional businesses important to the growth of Clark County, including the construction of the Portland, Vancouver and Yakima Railroad and the operation of a flour and feed mill and dock on the Vancouver waterfront.
Lowell Hidden is credited with initiating Vancouver’s first street railway, the city water system north of 13th Street, the State School for the Deaf, the county fair and one of the city’s first banks.
The family continues to be involved in supporting the City of Vancouver, including purchasing the Providence Academy in 1969, saving the historic structure from demolition. The academy was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1978.
Discovering Hidden Brick Buildings
You’ll find buildings small and large, constructed with Hidden Bricks, throughout the county. One that would be fun to visit is the Hidden Brick Horse Barn, which houses the Urban Barnhouse vintage shop.
Hidden Brick buildings on the national register include the Carnegie Library (Clark County Historical Museum) on Main Street, the Lowell M. Hidden house on W. 13th and Main, and the W. Foster Hidden house , also on W. 13th and Main. The beautiful St. James Catholic Church on W. 12th Street was listed on the Washington Heritage Register in 1986.