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Medicine Hat Brick and Tile Company Site

Medicine Hat

Other Names:

Statement of Significance

Description of Historic Place
The Medicine Hat Brick and Tile Company site is a collection of industrial buildings related to that company’s brick-making and other clay-working operations. They include five small buildings, an office, laboratory, clay mixing building, gas regulator shed and dynamite shed; two kilns with square chimneys; and a large plant composed of several distinct sections. While some of the site’s structural elements date from prior to 1914, most of the structures were constructed between the 1950s and 1970s. Significant additions and upgrades occurred through the 1980s and in 2004. The industrial buildings have a variety of roof types and are constructed mainly of red brick with the newer buildings featuring concrete foundations and some metal sheet siding. The site is situated near a rail transportation corridor in an industrial area of Medicine Hat known as the North Flats, which is a floodplain at the confluence of Ross Creek, Seven Persons Creek and the South Saskatchewan River. The site is located just to the east of the Medalta Potteries and the Hycroft China Ltd. Factory, both of which are also Provincial Historic Resources related to industrial activity and the manufacture of clay products, and is at the base of a series of hills, which are the source of the clay used for the manufacture of the company’s products.

Heritage Value
The Medicine Hat Brick and Tile Co. site is significant due to the role the company and site played as a major producer of brick and clay-based building materials. The site’s buildings also demonstrate changing brick-making technology and processes.

Valued for both its practical and aesthetic characteristics, brick was an essential building material for the development of western Canada. Produced by grinding and mixing clay with water and an aggregate, moulding, cutting or pressing the mixture into blocks and firing them in kilns until hard and durable, brick was highly valued for its fire-proof qualities and used in residential fireplaces and chimneys and for the construction of commercial buildings, largely due to fire prevention bylaws and zoning restrictions in urban areas. Its attractive appearance and sense of solidity it conveyed also made brick a desirable building material for residential and commercial buildings. While many brick plants and yards were small, poorly-capitalized operations that supplied local demand, some operations, such as the Medicine Hat Brick and Tile Co., grew to be large-scale enterprises that produced bricks and other clay-based building materials, such as hollow building tile and sewer tiles, for export throughout the west. The size of the site and its multiple buildings with specialized functions, speak to the scale, importance and success of the Medicine Hat Brick and Tile operation.

The landscape and layout of the Medicine Hat Brick and Tile Co. communicates the brick-making process and the evolution of the plant and other buildings outline changing trends in the industry. It was an ideal location for the production of clay-based products, such as brick and tile. The nearby hills, which show evidence of extensive quarrying, provided good clay for brick-making; the onsite gas wells, regulator shack, kiln heaters and associated engineering works demonstrate the usage of natural gas a fuel source; and remains of a spur line, trestle bridge and proximity to Canadian Pacific Railway main line and yards show the importance of that transportation link. Also, due to the near constant state of expansion and upgrading that has occurred at the site, the Medicine Hat Brick and Tile Co.’s buildings offer an excellent look at how brick-making technology and methods changed since the plant’s period of use. Larger plants were constructed through the early decades of the 1900s and some portions of the main plant with brick bearing walls likely date from this period. The two large, brick downdraft kilns with barrel-vaulted roofs, gas-fired heaters and large, square chimneys were added in the 1940s and 1950s. The main plant is composed of a number of interconnected and specialized buildings, such as the clay-storage areas, mixing room, grinding room, long tunnel kilns (added in 1953 and 1976), and shipping facilities. Also within the plant is machinery for two major brick making processes (dry-pressed and extruded/wirecut), which has been repeatedly updated over the years. A small laboratory and a separate office building were added to the site in the 1950s/60s. The laboratory speaks to the emphasis on research and the development of new products and improved products. Decorative panels on the laboratory and the brick work on the office demonstrate the variety of bricks produced by the company and the versatile nature of the material. The main plant went through major upgrades in the 1980s and computer-controlled brick-making machinery was installed in 2003. In 2010, the plant was closed due to flooding, ending over 120 years of brick-making on the site.

Source: Alberta Culture and Community Spirit, Historic Resources Management Branch (File: Des. 2299)


Character-Defining Elements
The heritage value of the Medicine Hat Brick and Tile Company site is defined by such elements as its:

Free-standing Downdraft Kilns (1940s/50s)
- brick, bearing wall construction with steel beam bracing, metal fixtures and engineering components, barrel-vaulted ceilings and roofs, stepped parapet front and rear facades and gas fired interior heaters.

Clay-mixing Building
- Multi-storey, sheet-metal clad exterior walls and a slightly sloped gable roof;
- minimal fenestration pattern of translucent panels in the upper portions of the walls;
- conveyor belts extending through the exterior walls to the main plant’s clay storage bins and dry-pressed manufacturing area.

Office Building (1955)
- single-story form with brick veneer walls, slightly-sloped roof with overhang and distinctive fenestration pattern;
- brick interior partition walls and brick floor;
- variegated colour patterns of the brick used on both exterior and interior finishes.

Laboratory (1960s)
- single-storey form with a small two-storey portion at the eastern side;
- brick veneer walls, some showing a variety of brick laying patterns, finishing and hues;
- numerous decorative panels demonstrating a variety of brick types, sizes, patterns, colours and textures;
- concrete and brick pad surrounding the building.

Main Plant (Various additions)
- gable-roofed, sheet metal-clad grinding room with extant clay-grinding equipment;
- gable and shed-roofed clay storage area (to the immediate south of the grinding room) with narrow clerestory windows and large clay-holding bins;
- shed-roofed sheet metal-clad storage building with stepped brick parapets (located between the clay-mixing building and the dry-pressed manufacturing building);
- shed-roofed, brick-walled extrusion building, containing equipment for the extrusion brick manufacturing process (located immediately south of the clay storage building);
- shed-roofed, sheet metal-clad dry press building with high walls and translucent roof panels, containing the robotic equipment for the dry press brick manufacturing process as well as office space and staff rooms (located to the immediate west of the extrusion building);
- large shed and flat-roofed area containing the tunnel kilns and storage areas for green (unbaked) bricks (located to the immediate south of the dry press building);
- flat-roofed shipping/receiving building with brick walls and translucent panels, overhead doors and a conveyor belt leading from the adjacent hills (located immediately to the east of the tunnel kiln/holding building);
- inverted gable-roofed texturing/sampling building with brick bearing walls (located immediately north of the shipping/receiving building).

General
- location in the North Flats area of Medicine Hat, at the confluence of Ross Creek, Seven Persons Creek and the North Saskatchewan River;
- location at the base of a series of hills, which were the source for much of the plant’s clay; and near other historic clay-working industries;
-close proximity to other designated historic resources (Medalta Potteries and the Hycroft China Ltd. factory), both of which are located slightly to the west;
- proximity to the main Canadian Pacific Railway right-of-way through Medicine Hat and structural evidence of rail infrastructure directly related to the brick plant, such as the spur line, switches, and bridge across Ross Creek;
- presence of a gas well which was the source of the plant’s power;
- presence of small ancillary buildings designed for specific uses, such as the dynamite shack and gas regulator building.
- refuse piles of detritus bricks, sewer tiles and other examples of the plant’s produce, many stamped with a variety of different trademarks reflecting the site’s corporate evolution.


Location



Street Address: 612 Porcelain Avenue SE,
Community: Medicine Hat
Boundaries: Lot 3, Block 1, Plan 1113024
Contributing Resources: Structure

ATS Legal Description:
Mer Rge Twp Sec LSD
4
4
5
5
12
12
28
29



PBL Legal Description (Cadastral Reference):
Plan Block Lot Parcel
1113024
1
3


Latitude/Longitude:
Latitude Longitude CDT Datum Type

UTM Reference:
Northing Easting Zone CDT Datum Type

Recognition

Recognition Authority: Province of Alberta
Designation Status: Provincial Historic Resource
Date of Designation: 2012/10/04

Historical Information

Built:
Significant Date(s) 1909 to 2010
Theme(s) Developing Economies : Extraction and Production
Historic Function(s):
Current Function(s):
Architect:
Builder:
Context:

Additional Information

Object Number: 4665-1368
Designation File: DES 2299
Related Listing(s):
Heritage Survey File:
Website Link:
Data Source: Alberta Culture and Tourism, Historic Resources Management Branch, Old St. Stephen's College, 8820 - 112 Street, Edmonton, AB T6G 2P8 (File: Des. 2299)
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