James Sanders Guignard (1780–1856), grandson of a French immigrant to Charleston, began making brick along the Congaree River near Columbia in 1803, first for personal use, then for commercial purposes under the name Guignard Brick Works. Brick from the Guignard plant were used in many of Columbia’s historic buildings, including the Confederate Printing Plant at the corner of Gervais and Huger Streets.
During the Civil War, the brick plant fell into disuse. In 1886 Gabriel Alexander Guignard, great-grandson of James Sanders Guignard, moved to the Columbia area from his parents’ home near Springfield to revive the brick operation. He mined clay extensively from alluvial deposits along the west bank of the Congaree River southward to the Cayce granite quarry and eventually to the vicinity of Congaree Creek. He installed a private rail line to bring the clay to the plant, which was then located south of the Gervais Street–Meeting Street bridge.
After Gabriel Alexander Guignard’s death in 1926, the brick operation was managed by his brother Christopher Gadsden Guignard and sister Susan Richardson Guignard. In 1956 the Guignard family sold a substantial interest in the company to a group of local investors.
In 1974 Guignard Brick Works was sold to the Merry Brothers Company of Augusta, Georgia, which continued to use the Guignard name. At the time of Merry Brothers’ acquisition, the operation was moved from the banks of the river to a new plant near U.S. Highway 1 and Interstate 20 east of Lexington, as clay was no longer readily available at the riverfront site, and the equipment there was outdated. Eventually the Merry Brothers Company itself was sold, and the Lexington operation became a part of Boral Brick. The site of the old plant on the west bank of the Congaree River became an apartment complex, though the beehive firing kilns still stand.