Council of Independent Colleges Historic Campus Architecture Project


Terra Cotta

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Institution Name: Alfred University
Original/Historic Place Name: Celadon Terra Cotta Company Office Building
Location on Campus: N. Main St.
Date(s) of Construction and Designer(s):
1892original construction Unknown
Type of Place: Individual building
Style(s): (Glossary)
Foundation: stone; concrete
Walls: brick; tile
Roof: tile
ca. 1892-1909other (Celadon Terra Cotta Tile Company)
ca. 1909-1974other (gift shop, village police justice court room, meeting room for Society of Friends)
1974-present (2007)memorial site

Significance: education, history
Landmark designation:
National RegisterAlfred Village Historic District (1985)
Narrative: see below
References: see below

Some of Alfred's most outstanding structures date from the nineteenth and early twentieth century, reflecting the continued prosperity of the institution and, more profoundly, the emergence of Alfred's ceramic industry. The story of Alfred's clayworks industry illustrates the emergence and development of brick and terra cotta manufacturing throughout America. By the late 1880s, numerous brick and clay manufacturers had been established throughout the northeast. The Celadon Terra Cotta Tile Company in Alfred emerged as a renowned leader in the industry. The company flourished for two decades, gaining national recognition for the variety and quality of its clayworks, and the Village of Alfred served as a showcase and testing grounds for the company's products. The Terra Cotta building was originally the office building and display center (clients could order directly from the exterior or interior designs; it was a "three-dimensional catalog") until the tile plant was destroyed by fire in 1909. The office building was spared since it sat apart from the rest. The building remains the most intact example of molded and/or sculpted terra-cotta ornamentation in Alfred. In fact, the Terra Cotta is such an unusual building that a replica was produced and exhibited at the 1892 World's Fair in Chicago.

In the years following the fire the building has served many uses: as a gift shop, a village police justice court room, a gallery and sales room for Glidden Pottery, and a meeting place for the Society of Friends. In 1969, when Alfred University planned to construct a new gymnasium on the site, the Alfred Historical Society worked to preserve and move the building. It was listed on the National Register in 1972 and relocated to its present site in 1974. The Alfred Historical Society hosts open houses throughout the year for people wishing to examine the interior and learn about the history of the building and the tile company.

I. Bibliographic sources:

Horowitz, Gary, ed. A Sesquicentennial History of Alfred University: Essays in Change. Alfred, NY: Alfred University, 1985.

Norwood, John Nelson. Fiat Lux: The Story of Alfred University. Alfred, NY: Alfred University, 1957.

Strong, Susan Rumsey. The Most Natural Way in the World: Coeducation at Nineteenth Century Alfred University. Ph.D. dissertation, University of Rochester, 1995.

Todd, Nancy. Alfred Village Historic District. National Register of Historic Places designation report. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of the Interior/National Park Service, 1985.

II. Location of other data:
University: Special Collections, Facilities Management Office
Government Offices
Other: Hinkle Memorial Library, Alfred State College

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Last update: November 2006