Red Wing Potteries - Minnesota Stoneware Company, Red Wing Minnesota
The Minnesota Stoneware Company was founded in 1883 during the years that the pottery trade reached its greatest significance in Minnesota's industrial pattern. Its organization was stimulated by the success of the Red Wing Stoneware Company, founded in 1877. By 1890 the Red Wing plants were reported to be the largest establishment of their kind in the nation. They utilized local clay in the production of stoneware crocks jugs, and milk pans.
A partial merger was effected in 1894 between the Red Wing and Minnesota Stoneware Companies to meet the competition of the newer and larger North Star plant, organized in 1892. The merger set up a joint sales organization and enabled both companies to greatly widen their markets. North Star was unable to meet the competition and ceased operation in 1897. A total merger was effected in 1906 after the success of the partial merger of 1894, and the company name became the Red Wing Union Stoneware Company.
In February, 1900, the Minnesota Stoneware plant burned to the ground. Shortly thereafter the Red Wing Stoneware Company plant similarly burned. Both plants were rebuilt immediately and continued to prosper. In the 1920s the demand for stoneware began to dwindle, forcing the company to diversify and open up new markets. Dinnerware manufacture began to replace stoneware. The name Red Wing Union Stoneware Company no longer reflected the product being manufactured, so the name was changed to Red Wing Potteries, Inc. in 1936.
The company continued to make dinnerware and art pottery until 1967 when the company liquidated after a factory strike which could not be settled.
The Minnesota Stoneware Company complex is located at 1997 West Main Street, in Red Wing, along the Mississippi River towards the west end of town.
The complex consists of a large brick structure and numerous frame and tin out-buildings. The main building is four stories in height and measures 450 feet by 58 feet. Its design is simple and functional, The windows on the oldest (eastern) portion of the building are slightly arched. Decorative brickwork at the top of the east facade and a simple cornice serve as the primary decorative elements, All of the windows are six-over-six, and the roof is supported by wood trusses. This building originally housed the major pottery making operations of the industry, and included jolleying and turning rooms, drying rooms, and slip rooms. An early elevator remains operable, The one story office building, at the east end of the main building, is currently utilized for office space by a bowling equipment supplier.
The outbuildings of the complex were primarily utilized for pottery and clay storage and stock warehouses. Numerous pottery molds are stored in one area, and a large supply of clay (no longer savageable) remains in clay storage bins. Portions of one kiln remain at the north of the main building and behind the office building. The attached sketch map shows the locations of the various portions of the complex and approximate dates of construction.
The Minnesota Stoneware Company's original building was built on this site in 1883 but burned in 1900. The earliest portions of the complex date to the 1901 re-building. The operations of the company expanded to include a second complex (located to the east on the present site of the Red Wing Pottery Salesroom) after the 1906 merger with the Red Wing Stoneware Company. This complex has been razed.