Description of Historic Place
Medalta Potteries National Historic Site of Canada is a former industrial ceramics manufacturing complex located in Medicine Hat, Alberta. The site includes five interconnected brick and steel industrial buildings dating from 1912 to the 1930s, four beehive kilns (ca. 1920-1926), vestiges of five other buildings, a narrow-gauge rail system, an internal road network, and in situ machinery. These resources are distributed over an approximately 3.2 hectare property located on a spur line of the Canadian Pacific Railway in the heart of an historic industrial district that was an important centre for the clay products industry in western Canada. Official recognition refers to legal property boundary at the time of designation.
Medalta Potteries was designated a national historic site of Canada in 1985:
- by virtue of its in situ resources characteristic of the ceramics industry, and its impact on the development of that industry in Canada.
The Medalta Potteries National Historic Site of Canada illustrates the evolution of ceramics manufacturing from 1912 to 1954. It is directly associated with the history of the first plant on the site, the Medicine Hat Pottery Company (1912-1916) and its subsequent owner Medalta Stoneware Limited, which later became Medalta Potteries Ltd., operating on the site from 1916 to 1954. The business was the most successful and enduring manufacturing industry in Medicine Hat, the first western Canadian manufacturer to ship goods east of the Great Lakes, and from the 1920s to the 1940s, the largest manufacturer of pottery west of Toronto. As such, it is the most extensive in situ resource associated with the ceramic industry in Canada. The historic place includes buildings and an industrial landscape that illustrate the organization of the industry, its physical connection to national transportation networks, its relationship to the community of Medicine Hat, the manufacturing processes used in the production of pottery from 1916 to 1954, and the work environment.
Sources: Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada, Minute, June 1985; Commemorative Integrity Statement, July 1998.
Key elements that contribute to the heritage value of the site include:
- the location of the property in “The Flats” between the clay cliffs and the railway tracks in the heart of an historic industrial district;
-the spatial arrangement of the industrial complex, the relationship between the site and its surrounding landscape, buildings and structures associated with Medicine Hat Potteries and with Medalta Stoneware and Medalta Potteries, and in situ industrial equipment;
- the industrial character of the complex with it surviving structures illustrating the evolution of the manufacturing enterprise, namely buildings 10, 11, 12, 13 (1912-1913), building 9 (1916), and four beehive kilns (ca. 1920-1926) in their scale, brick exteriors, roof monitors, roofing of wood shingles, corrugated iron, asphalt or rolled roofing, their orientation along the railway tracks, evidence of ad hoc functional design changes such as alterations to openings as required, the predominance of fire-resistant brick, milled shiplap siding, and wood sash windows, the varied rooflines with their roof monitors, chimneys and rounded four beehive kilns, their open interior layouts,
- surviving in-situ machinery including dry pan grinders, bucket elevators, a clay separator, a pulverizer, pug mills, blungers, a ball mill, a pump, agitators, a filter press, a line shaft, a sagger press, a spin pressing machine, and a narrow-gauge rail system;
- Building 2 with its concrete foundation;
- remnants of the shared wall of Building 7 and Building 8
- Building 10 with its load-bearing brick perimeter wall, monitor roof, internal wood beams and rafters, wood cladding and wood shingles;
- Building 11 with its lean-to form, dirt floor, load-bearing brick walls, timber roof; and asphalt roofing;
- Building 12 with its monitor-roof form, load-bearing brick walls, internal wood structure of columns, beams and rafters, and wood- and asphalt-shingled roof;
- Building 13 with its monitor roof, load-bearing brick walls, clear-span steel trusses, wood purlins, plywood sheathing, and corrugated-metal and rolled-asphalt roofing;
- four beehive down-draft kilns with their domed forms on circular footprints, with thick walls of common and fire-proof bricks, their steel strap banding, central, circular chimney flue, a hollow-tile floor system, and a ventilated ceramic grate;
- Building 9 with its wood frame construction and hollow clay tile walls, monitor roof, and roof coverings of wood sheathing and asphalt shingles;
archaeological evidence of the plant operations including a network of tracks, the foundations of the original kilns in Building 13, machinery pits in Building 12 and a complex network of tunnels and vents underneath Building 7 buried beneath more recent concrete floor slabs.