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HYCROFT CHINA LTD. FACTORY

701 - 703 Wood Street, Medicine Hat, Alberta, T1A, Canada

Formally Recognized: 1995/08/16

Hycroft China Ltd. Factory, Medicine Hat; Alberta Culture and Community Spirit, Historic Resources Management
Looking south along railway spur
Hycroft China Ltd. Factory, Medicine Hat (October 2001); Alberta Culture and Community Spirit, Historic Resources Management, 2001
Northeast corner of complex
Hycroft China Ltd. Factory, Medicine Hat (October 2001); Alberta Culture and Community Spirit, Historic Resources Management, 2001
View of pottery complex from the west

Other Name(s)

HYCROFT CHINA LTD. FACTORY
Hycroft China Plant and Warehouse
Medicine Hat Potteries' Factory
Hycroft Clay

Links and documents

Construction Date(s)

1937/01/01

Listed on the Canadian Register: 2009/03/03

Statement of Significance

Description of Historic Place

The Hycroft China Ltd. Factory site includes a 1938 factory building, a 1947 warehouse, a shed housing the natural gas works and a railway right-of-way. The site is situated on roughly 4.475 hectares of land in the eastern portion of the City of Medicine Hat. The factory is a one-storey, red-brick building featuring a clerestory, a main entrance flanked by glass block sidelights and topped by a transom, and the company logo painted in two places on the exterior. The warehouse is a simple, single-storey red-brick construction with a flat roof. The railway right-of-way runs between the factory and the warehouse. The two sheds housing the gas works are modest, utilitarian structures.

Heritage Value

The heritage value of the Hycroft China Ltd. Factory lies in its association with southern Alberta's important clay-products industry and its fine and largely intact example of modern factory architecture of the time.

The clay-products industry in Medicine Hat began production in the mid-1880s, shortly after the Canadian Pacific Railway's transcontinental line went through the region. Blessed with high-quality clay and natural gas to fuel the kilns, Medicine Hat became a focus for the creation of bricks, pottery, and other ceramics. In the late 1930s, J. Harlan "Hop" Yuill decided, in spite of the vagaries of the Depression and robust competition from Medalta Potteries, to forge ahead with a new clay-products company in Medicine Hat. The Medicine Hat Pottery Company began production in 1938, offering more delicate and ornate products than Medalta. The company continued to operate until 1955, when it was purchased by Marwell Construction of Vancouver and the name of the venture was changed to Hycroft China. Only two years later, the operation was sold again, this time to the multimillionaire Mayor of Medicine Hat, Harry Veiner. A consummate salesman, Veiner deftly reorganized the company and diversified its product line, adding sanitary wares like toilets and sinks to the company's traditional product line of pottery and souvenir items. Veiner's innovations reinvigorated the company's fortunes and Hycroft China continued to operate until the plant was closed in the late 1980s.

The Hycroft China Ltd. Factory site is an excellent example of an industrial clay-products complex and maintains many of the structures, machines, and artifacts associated with the manufacturing of pottery and other ceramics. The factory, built between 1937 and 1938, is a remarkable construction, equipped with cutting edge technology and reflecting in its architecture and design the marriage of utilitarian considerations with the period concern with creating attractive and safe workplaces. The building features a long bank of clerestory windows that suffuse the interior with natural light, as well as several aesthetically-pleasing Art Moderne architectural elements, including curved walls and glass block windows. The factory included other elements intended to promote morale and worker satisfaction, including a soothing, muted blue interior colour scheme, a loudspeaker system to broadcast radio programs and records, a soft drink cooler and water fountain on the factory floor, and modern safety devices. In addition to these creature comforts, the factory also featured the latest in clay-products technology, including a massive circular tunnel kiln measuring over 20 metres in diameter - at the time the largest such kiln in the nation - and other sophisticated machines. These luxuries and innovations served not only to improve efficiency and work safety, but also helped the company to lure employees away from Medalta Pottery, its chief competitor. Many of the original machines and artifacts are still on site, offering a rich example of the structures and processes of clay-products manufacturing. The other elements of the site, including the utilitarian warehouse building, the railway right-of-way formerly used to move supplies and finished products, and the two structures housing the gas works are architecturally unremarkable; nonetheless, they illuminate the working structural relations between the various elements of the site.

Source: Alberta Culture and Community Spirit, Historic Resources Management Branch (File: Des. 1885)

Character-Defining Elements

The character-defining elements of the Hycroft China Ltd. Factory include such features as:

Site:
- spatial relations between site elements;
- historic gas wells on site;
- railway right-of-way between factory and warehouse;
- gas pipes between structures.

1938 factory building:
- mass, form, and scale;
- red-brick exterior and curved exterior walls;
- combination of hollow clay tile and brick construction;
- long bank of clerestory windows;
- fenestration pattern;
- Hycroft company logo painted on curved wall joining office and plant;
- painted company logo and name "MEDICINE HAT POTTERIES" on south elevation;
- front entrance featuring glass block sidelights and transom;
- batten ceiling;
- original interior elements, including multipane window from office to plant interior, hardwood flooring, curved walls, muted blue colour scheme, ceiling mounted loudspeaker, light fixtures, batten ceiling, steel truss system supporting monitor roof, glass-enclosed workshop, security vault and original boiler in basement;
- original machinery and associated elements, including engine room and kiln control console, drying ovens, glaze application machine, salt glaze kiln, and breaches made in kiln wall to dislodge jammed pottery moving through oven;
- original artifacts, including molds, punch clock, and board with original employee time cards.

1947 warehouse:
- mass, form, and scale;
- painted "Hycroft CHINA LIMITED" sign on northwest elevation;
- fenestration and door pattern.

Brick structure housing natural gas works:
- mass, form, and scale;
- gable roof;
- piping and related gas equipment.

Stucco-clad structure housing natural gas works:
- mass, form, and scale;
- hollow clay tile construction;
- stucco exterior;
- hipped gable roof.

Recognition

Jurisdiction

Alberta

Recognition Authority

Province of Alberta

Recognition Statute

Historical Resources Act

Recognition Type

Provincial Historic Resource

Recognition Date

1995/08/16

Historical Information

Significant Date(s)

n/a

Theme - Category and Type

Developing Economies
Extraction and Production
Expressing Intellectual and Cultural Life
Architecture and Design

Function - Category and Type

Current

Leisure
Historic or Interpretive Site

Historic

Industry
Crafts Production Facility

Architect / Designer

n/a

Builder

n/a

Additional Information

Location of Supporting Documentation

Alberta Culture and Community Spirit, Historic Resources Management Branch, Old St. Stephen's College, 8820 - 112 Street, Edmonton, AB T6G 2P8 (File: Des. 1885)

Cross-Reference to Collection

Fed/Prov/Terr Identifier

4665-0490

Status

Published

Related Places

n/a

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