Sunday, February 14, 2010

Celadon Terre Cotta House

Celadon Terra Cotta House


It’s what we all pass as we come into Alfred at least those who come from the Hornell direction. When first coming to Alfred I remember looking at this little gingerbread of a house finding my self feeling quaint and sentimental. What could this house mean. I thought naturally that this must be some artistic replica of Alfred’s deep history in ceramics. Perhaps as a symbol of the schools excellence it was used as a marketing tool in attracting students to Alfred. A house made entirely out of Terracotta seemed to be most defiantly connected with promotions of skill, labor and design. The house is not so much an architectural feet as it is a show board of the possibilities in terracotta. To me its symbol as a home made of terra cotta symbolizes the great bond between a ceramists and his material, but also to the strong fellowship of community, which holds the center of Alfred’s spirit and morale.  

            I never really knew much about this little house other than what my eyes have interpreted. It is the corner stone too much of what Alfred is about. The reasons why Alfred has the level of respect and cherishment towards its history behind ceramics is what gives this place its value and prestige.

            The word Celadon, translates in my mind to a glaze I used in an introductory wheel throwing class. Celadon creates this pale green glaze, which runs down the side of my pots and sticks to the kiln shelves if I put too much on.  The greenish tint, however, is what the fired bricks used in the construction of the Celadon Terra Cotta house emulates.

This greenish tint that appears in the fired clay body is characteristic of the clay found in the Alfred area. It is this clay that pioneered the start of the Celadon Terra Cotta Company in the first place. In the 1880s this clay was discovered in the area surrounding Alfred to be useful in making high quality terracotta works. With in 10 years shortly after the Terra Cotta Company was born. Starting from a small group, Alfred entrepreneurs began to produce a variety of Ceramic products from roofing tile, brick, wall tiles and architectural decorations which can still be seen on the buildings along Main Street.

            The Terra Cotta house was built as a show room for displaying the works. Customers could come and view the house, which was in its self an example of the distinctive works.  This building was also used as an office space. The house was such an interesting piece in its self that a replica was made of it for the 1893 World’s Fair in Chicago.

The Company was sold in the early 1906 to become the Ludowici-Celadon Company. This Company covered the spaces, which included the now football field and McLane Center. However, in a fire during August 26, 1909 a terrible fire destroyed the entire company save for the Terre Cotta house. The Terre Cotta house was not always where it is today, it survived the fire because it was separate from the rest of the company sitting on North Main Street.  The house was transported in 1907 to its current location on Main Street in front of the New York State College Of Ceramics. This history has since had long lasting effects on the town houses with matching terra cotta roofing tiles and Victorian styles.  It is truly a masterpiece of which Alfred places its roots in reflection and cultural design.


  1. Date correction - the building was moved in the mid- 1970s when McLane Center was being built.

  2. The Terra Cotta was moved in 1970 from the site now occupied by the James A. McLane Physical Education Center (1971), was temporarily stored on steel girders along North Main Street until finally being placed on its current foundation.