Filed Under Helena

Western Clay Manufacturing Company

Englishman C.C. Thurston established a brickyard at this site in 1883. One of his employees was Charles Bray, a fellow Britisher, who had served an apprenticeship in brickmaking before leaving England. In 1885, Nicholas Kessler, a longtime Helena brewer and brickmaker, bought the brickworks from Thurston and placed Bray in charge. At that time the plant operated under horse and oxen power and the bricks were molded by hand. Bray introduced steam-powered equipment, improved the kilns for firing clay products, and expanded manufacturing to include sewer pipe, tile, flower pots, and decorative brick. By 1900, the Kessler Brick and Sewer Pipe Works was one of Montana’s leading clay manufacturers. In 1905, Kessler merged with brickmaker Jacob Switzer to form the Western Clay Manufacturing Company. Bray remained as manager, brought sons Archie and Raymond into the business, and eventually came to own it. Upon his father’s death in 1931, Archie became company president. A ceramics engineer, Archie was a creative, talented man and a lover of fine art, who envisioned a pottery on the brickyard grounds. With the enthusiastic help of friends, the dream came to fruition in 1951. Although Bray died in 1953, his Foundation survived closure of Western Clay in 1960, and in 1984 it purchased the abandoned brickyard buildings and kilns. The complex, which dates from the 1890s to 1908 updated throughout the 1920s and 1930s, spans more than a century of clay manufacturing and represents three generations of kiln technology. Today the Archie Bray Foundation is an internationally acclaimed ceramic arts center, welcoming artists who come here to work, share ideas, and keep the dream.

Images

Western Clay Manufacturing Company Western Clay Manufacturing Company. Overview of the Archie Bray, Western Clay Manufacturing Company, facing south to southeast on the grounds of the property near Country Club Road with a background view of Mount Helena. Source: Montana State Historic Preservation Office Creator: Photographer unidentified Date: Date unknown
Western Clay Manufacturing Company Western Clay Manufacturing Company. Overview of the manufacturing company/Archie Bray ground, facing southwest on the property near Country Club Road and a background view of the surrounding hills. Beehive kilns and shared stack structure. Source: Montana State Historic Preservation Office Creator: Chere Jiusto Date: Aug. 2017
Western Clay Manufacturing Company Western Clay Manufacturing Company. View of two buildings near the front of the manufacturing grounds to show perspective, facing south on the road leading into the property off of Country Club Road. Source: Montana State Historic Preservation Office Creator: Chere Jiusto Date: Aug. 2017
Western Clay Office/Clay Business Manager's Residence Western Clay Office/Clay Business Manager's Residence (PAc 91-51 Archie Bray Foundation Roll01 F05). Front to side view of the building, facing southwest from the main road in to the property off of Country Club Road. B&W. Source: Montana State Historic Preservation Office from the Photograph Archives at the Montana Historical Society Creator: Fredric L. Quivik Date: Dec., 1984
Western Clay Garage Western Clay Garage (PAc 91-51 Archie Bray Foundation Roll01 F06). Side view of the garage, facing north near the main road leading into the property off of Country Club Road. View of the smaller garage annex to the main garage area. B&W. Source: Montana State Historic Preservation Office from the Photograph Archives at the Montana Historical Society Creator: Fredric L. Quivik Date: Dec. 1984
Western Clay Garage Western Clay Garage (PAc 91-51 Archie Bray Foundation Roll01 F07). Front to side view of the building, facing northeast near the main road into the property off of Country Club Road. Source: Montana State Historic Preservation Office from the Photograph Archives at the Montana Historical Society Creator: Fredric L. Quivik Date: Dec., 1984
Western Clay Garage Western Clay Garage (PAc 91-51 Archie Bray Foundation Roll01 F08). Front to side view of the building, facing north near the main road into the property off of Country Club Road. B&W. Source: Montana State Historic Preservation Office from the Photograph Archives at the Montana Historical Society Creator: Fredric L. Quivik Date: Dec., 1984
Pottery Annex Pottery Annex (PAc 91-51 Archie Bray Foundation Roll01 F09). Front to side view of the building, facing southwest from the main road around the property that leads back to the entrance off of Country Club Road. B&W. Source: Montana State Historic Preservation Office from the Photograph Archives at the Montana Historical Society Creator: Fredric L. Quivik Date: Dec., 1984
Broadwater Cupola Broadwater Cupola (PAc 91-51 Archie Bray Foundation Roll01 F10). Front to side view of the structure, facing northwest on the property. This structure was from the Broadwater Hotel. B&W. Source: Montana State Historic Preservation Office from the Photograph Archives at the Montana Historical Society Creator: Fredric L. Quivik Date: Dec., 1984
Kiln #6 Kiln #6 (PAc 91-51 Archie Bray Foundation Roll01 F13). Front view of the kiln structure, facing southwest. B&W. Source: Montana State Historic Preservation Office from the Photograph Archives at the Montana Historical Society Creator: Fredric L. Quivik Date: Dec., 1984
Warehouse Warehouse (PAc 91-51 Archie Bray Foundation Roll01 F14). Front to side view of the building, facing northwest from the main road leading to the entry off of Country Club Road. B&W. Source: Montana State Historic Preservation Office from the Photograph Archives at the Montana Historical Society Creator: Fredric L. Quivik Date: Dec., 1984
Warehouse #1/Scove Kiln Warehouse #1/Scove Kiln (PAc 91-51 Archie Bray Foundation Roll01 F17). Front to side view of the building, facing southwest on the property. View of Warehouse #2 to the west of the building. B&W. Source: Montana State Historic Preservation Office from the Photograph Archives at the Montana Historical Society Creator: Fredric L. Quivik Date: Dec., 1984
Brick Drying Tunnels Brick Drying Tunnels (PAc 91-51 Archie Bray Foundation Roll01 F18). Side view of the structure, facing southeast. B&W. Source: Montana State Historic Preservation Office from the Photograph Archives at the Montana Historical Society Creator: Fredric L. Quivik Date: Dec., 1984
Drying Shop Drying Shop (PAc 91-51 Archie Bray Foundation Roll01 F21). Front to side view of the building, facing southeast with a view of the Brick Shop in the background (slanted roofline). B&W. Source: Montana State Historic Preservation Office from the Photograph Archives at the Montana Historical Society Creator: Fredric L. Quivik Date: Dec., 1984
Brick Shop Brick Shop (PAc 91-51 Archie Bray Foundation Roll01 F22). Front to side view of the building, facing southwest opposite the photograph of the Drying Shop in Frame 21 of the same roll of film. B&W. Source: Montana State Historic Preservation Office from the Photograph Archives at the Montana Historical Society Creator: Fredric L. Quivik Date: Dec., 1984
Kiln #8 Kiln #8 (PAc 91-51 Archie Bray Foundation Roll01 F26). Front view of the kiln structure, facing northeast on the property near Kiln #6. B&W. Source: Montana State Historic Preservation Office from the Photograph Archives at the Montana Historical Society Creator: Fredric L. Quivik Date: Dec., 1984
Warehouse #2 Warehouse #2 (PAc 91-51 Archie Bray Foundation Roll01 F31). Front to side view of the building, facing south on the property near Warehouse #1 to the east (left in the photograph) and Warehouse #3 to the west (right in the photograph). B&W. Source: Montana State Historic Preservation Office from the Photograph Archives at the Montana Historical Society Creator: Fredric L. Quivik Date: Dec., 1984
Warehouse #3 Warehouse #3 (PAc 91-51 Archie Bray Foundation Roll01 F32). Front to side view of the building, facing south with a view of Warehouse #2 to the east (left in the photograph). B&W. Source: Montana State Historic Preservation Office from the Photograph Archives at the Montana Historical Society Creator: Fredric L. Quivik Date: Dec., 1984
Bray Overview Bray Overview (PAc 91-51 Archie Bray Foundation Roll02 F25). Overview of a few prominent structures on the Bray property, facing north. From left to right are the Brick Shop, Boiler Room/Engine Room, and the Tile Shop. B&W. Source: Montana State Historic Preservation Office from the Photograph Archives at the Montana Historical Society Creator: Fredric L. Quivik Date: Dec., 1984
Resident Potter's Residence Resident Potter's Residence (PAc 91-51 Archie Bray Foundation Roll03 F18). Front to side view of the house, facing northwest near the front of the property towards Country Club Road. B&W. Source: Montana State Historic Preservation Office from the Photograph Archives at the Montana Historical Society Creator: Fredric L. Quivik Date: Dec., 1984
Resident Potter's Residence Resident Potter's Residence (PAc 91-51 Archie Bray Foundation Roll03 F19). Side view of the house, facing southwest near the front of the property towards Country Club Road. B&W. Source: Montana State Historic Preservation Office from the Photograph Archives at the Montana Historical Society Creator: Fredric L. Quivik Date: Dec., 1984
Resident Potter's Residence Resident Potter's Residence (PAc 91-51 Archie Bray Foundation Roll03 F20). Rear view of the house, facing northeast near the front of the property towards Country Club Road. B&W. Source: Montana State Historic Preservation Office from the Photograph Archives at the Montana Historical Society Creator: Fredric L. Quivik Date: Dec., 1984
Resident Potter's Residence Resident Potter's Residence (PAc 91-51 Archie Bray Foundation Roll03 F21). Side view of the house, facing north near the front of the property near Country Club Road. B&W. Source: Montana State Historic Preservation Office from the Photograph Archives at the Montana Historical Society Creator: Fredric L. Quivik Date: Dec., 1984
Beehive Kiln #7 Beehive Kiln #7 (PAc 91-51 Archie Bray Foundation Roll07 F03). Front view of the kiln structure, facing west on the property near Beehive Kiln #4. B&W. Source: Montana State Historic Preservation Office from the Photograph Archives at the Montana Historical Society Creator: Fredric L. Quivik Date: Feb., 1985
Beehive Kiln #4 Beehive Kiln #4 (PAc 91-51 Archie Bray Foundation Roll07 F05). Front view of the kiln structure, facing west near Beehive Kiln #5. B&W. Source: Montana State Historic Preservation Office from the Photograph Archives at the Montana Historical Society Creator: Fredric L. Quivik Date: Feb., 1985
Beehive Kiln #5 Beehive Kiln #5 (PAc 91-51 Archie Bray Foundation Roll07 F09). Front view of the kiln structure, facing west with a view of Beehive Kiln #4 in the background to the right in the photograph. B&W. Source: Montana State Historic Preservation Office from the Photograph Archives at the Montana Historical Society Creator: Fredric L. Quivik Date: Feb., 1985
Tile Shop Tile Shop (PAc 91-51 Archie Bray Foundation Roll07 F11). Front to side view of the building, facing northwest with a view of the Brick Shop in the background to the left in the photograph. B&W. Source: Montana State Historic Preservation Office from the Photograph Archives at the Montana Historical Society Creator: Fredric L. Quivik Date: Feb., 1985

Location

2915 Country Club Road, Helena, Montana | Private

Metadata

The Montana National Register Sign Program, “Western Clay Manufacturing Company,” Historic Montana, accessed October 1, 2023, https://historicmt.org/items/show/822.