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Founded in the mid-1880s and expanded under the leadership of owners Charles and son Archie Bray, Western Clay became Montana’s premiere brick and hollow clay tile manufacturing plant by the early 20th century. The Western Clay campus comprises an impressive thirty-two buildings over twenty-six acres, illustrating three generations of manufacturing technology. The plant's various structures—and most notably, the machinery located therein—are well-preserved, creating an unparalleled opportunity to interpret the little-known but influential history of the brick and tile manufacturing industry that helped build Montana and the American West. Stewarded by its successor—the internationally renowned Archie Bray Foundation for the Ceramic Arts, an organization located on the very grounds of the former manufacturing site— the complex allows for an exploration of the relationship between the manufacture of industrial, heavy-clay products and that of ceramic art. Following the plant’s closing, a number of the Western Clay Manufacturing Company’s original buildings were repurposed to support the Archie Bray Foundation and its mission of promoting studio practice in the ceramic arts.

 

Brick shop and drying tunnels. Photo: J. P. Rowe (1908)

 

Brick shop ruins and contemporary resident artists' studio. Photo: J. Elliott (2011)
 
History of Westen Clay Manufacturing, Timeglider, 2011. Use the mouse to zoom, scroll across, click on images and events for more information and links to other sites. Full site at Western Clay Timeglider