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Hycroft China Ltd. Factory

Medicine Hat

Other Names:
Hycroft China Ltd. Buildings
Hycroft China Plant
Hycroft China Plant and Warehouse
Hycroft Clay
Medicine Hat Potteries' Factory

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.


Location



Street Address: 701 - 703 Wood Street
Community: Medicine Hat
Boundaries: Plan 2135 BC, Blocks G and I
Contributing Resources: Buildings: 4
Landscape(s) or Landscape Feature(s): 1

ATS Legal Description:
Mer Rge Twp Sec LSD
4
4
5
5
12
12
29
29
11 (ptn.)
14 (ptn.)

PBL Legal Description (Cadastral Reference):
Plan Block Lot Parcel
2135 BC
2135 BC
I
G
N/A
N/A



Latitude/Longitude:
Latitude Longitude CDT Datum Type
50.030421 -110.654631

UTM Reference:
Northing Easting Zone CDT Datum Type

Recognition

Recognition Authority: Province of Alberta
Designation Status: Provincial Historic Resource
Date of Designation: 1995/08/16

Historical Information

Built: 1937/01/01 To 1937/01/01
Significant Date(s) N/A
Theme(s) Developing Economies : Extraction and Production
Expressing Intellectual and Cultural Life : Architecture and Design
Historic Function(s): Industry : Crafts Production Facility
Current Function(s): Leisure : Historic or Interpretive Site
Architect:
Builder:
Context: HERITAGE SIGNIFICANCE

The Hycroft China Plant was built in 1937-38, and the warehouse in 1947, part of what was originally called Medicine Hat Potteries. Pottery manufacture had been well-established industry in Medicine Hat since the early 1990s, taking advantage of the fine, local clay supply, and the abundance of power from the natural gas fields. Medicine Hat's location on the Canadian Pacific Railway Line meant the products of the city's kilns could be easily shipped to stores and customers across Canada.

The buildings on the Hycroft site, and the equipment they contain, are fine examples of an important industry in southern Alberta. Pottery manufacture in Medicine Hat began in 1912, and remained a significant player in the local economy into the 1950s. During the Second World War, for example, Medicine Hat Potteries supplies in the Department of Munitions and Supplies with several lines of white crockery.

This site's considerable historical significance comes from its membership in an important southern Alberta industry, and from the excellent period equipment still in good repair on site. The Hycroft China Plant and Warehouse was, according to original architectural drawings, constructed in 1937-38. The plant's design, with its clerestory lighting, glass block windows and curved wall adjoining the entryway, was a very modern architectural statement for its day. A large colour version of the "Little Chief" trademark is emblazoned on the curved wall. It has the updated name of Hycroft China (as opposed to the original "Medicine Hat Pottery"), and was probably touched up at various times, but is nevertheless in relatively good condition and is a good representation of the graphic design ideas of the day. Not surprisingly, the factory is constructed of brick (probably of local manufacture) and concrete with a metal roof system. Changes from the original configuration have occurred - notably in the window placement at the front entrance, but on the whole integrity of the site remains high. Factory facilities of this period and type are not numerous, and this is a good example.

Additional Information

Object Number: 4665-0490
Designation File: DES 1885
Related Listing(s):
Heritage Survey File: HS 81397
Website Link:
Data Source: Alberta Culture and Community Spirit, Historic Resources Management Branch, Old St. Stephen's College, 8820 - 112 Street, Edmonton, AB T6G 2P8 (File: Des. 1885)
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