© Stuart Stark: Heritage Consultant
The history of the Malibu Potteries was short – a scant six years – but the influence of this factory was felt up and down the west coast of North America from the late 1920’s through the early years of the Great Depression.
The tiles that they produced, in bright colours and Saracen designs, were used in homes, for fountains, in automobile showrooms, on the fronts of commercial buildings and even on schools and inside City Halls.
Today, collectors vie for these bright reminders of a part of California history.
As the name implies, Malibu Potteries was situated in Malibu, California. The factory was located just east of the famous Malibu Pier, which had originally been built in 1905 to support the operation of the Malibu Rancho, owned by Frederick Hastings Rindge.
Agricultural products were shipped from the pier, and building materials and other necessities were received at the pier for the ranch.
Just west of the pier was the Adamson House, which had a family connection to the Malibu Ranch.
The two-story, ten-room Adamson House was designed by Stiles O. Clements and built of steel-reinforced concrete. Completed in 1930, Stiles called the house an example of modified Mediterranean-style architecture. The style can be referred to as a synthesis of Spanish Colonial Revival and Moorish Revival architecture. Sometimes the style is also referred to as “California Mission”.
The house was built for Merrit Adamsom and his wife, Rhoda Rindge, the daughter of the ranch owner, who he had met while he was employed as a foreman at the Rindge’s Malibu Ranch. The house features teak woodwork, fireplaces in several rooms, handpainted ceilings, lead-framed bottle glass windows, and wrought-iron filigree fittings over the windows.
The Adamson House is probably the best-known building that used Malibu Tiles in its construction and decoration, and is well worth a visit to see these remarkable tiles, used in imaginative ways. The Adamson House is open to the public. Their website is: http://www.adamsonhouse.org/.
It was decided to utilize the unique red and buff burning clays that existed in the Malibu area, as well as an abundant supply of water from a spring in Sweetwater Canyon, to establish the Malibu Potteries.
Beginning in 1926, a profusion of brilliant tiles flowed from this establishment to hundreds of residential and public buildings throughout Southern California, and ranging as far north as Seattle and even into Canada, where examples exist in Victoria, B.C. where one of the largest extant installations is currently threatened with demolition.