May 8, 2012

Hycroft China Limited Factory

Constructed in 1937, Hycroft China Ltd. was originally founded as Medicine Hat Potteries Ltd. and quickly emerged as Medalta Potteries main competitor.  The relationship was further emphasized by the fact that the two were located only a few blocks from one another in what was known as Medicine Hat's clay district.  In fact, many of Hycroft's workers were former Medalta employees, enticed by the more modern working conditions and higher pay.

The factory itself featured the largest tunnel kiln in Canada.  Modern conveniences like abundant windows, skylights, loudspeakers throughout the facility, and a water fountain on the factory floor were all installed to make for a more pleasant working environment.

In its first few years of operation, Medicine Hat Potteries began making dishes to compete with those being produced by Medalta.  They offered more decorative options that soon proved more popular, and according to Archives Canada, by 1939 they had taken over Medalta's distributors in Toronto and Quebec.

In 1955 Medicine Hat Potteries was sold and the company was renamed Hycroft China Limited by the new owners.  Struggling to find a niche in the changing industry, in 1960 Hycroft began manufacturing toilets (or sanitary ware as it was called).  This success allowed the company to continue releasing a varied amount of dishware and souvenirs until they closed their doors in 1989.

The Hycroft plant was donated to the Friends of Medalta in 1992, and in 1995 it was designated a Provincial Historic Site. See the interior of this incredible location here.

A Clay Products Interpretive Centre was established at the site in 1994, and my first memories of this place are of coming here to see the Great Wall of China display as a kid.  What really makes Hycroft amazing though is that its history is so well preserved. Just exploring the site to create this photo set you could still see molds stacked on shelves and work stations left abandoned.  Like Medalta, the site is also littered with pottery fragments, old racks, and pieces of brick.  It really is a local treasure tucked away in the old pottery district.

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