The Western Clay Manufacturing Company Conservation Praxis project involved collaboration among the Archie Bray Foundation for the Ceramic Arts, the Montana Preservation Alliance, and the Architectural Conservation Laboratory of the University of Pennsylvania. The Western Clay Manufacturing Company site (Helena, Montana) contains several dozen buildings spanning three generations of industrial brickmaking technology going back to the late 1890s. The place itself is of interest to the VAF partly because the kind of products it manufactured – hollow tile, fire brick, and the like – turn up in so many of the vernacular buildings we study. The Conservation Praxis project at Western Clay Manufacturing Company attained a high level in architectural fieldwork, worthy of the award named for Paul E. Buchanan, who did so much to set the standard. Over several years, project members assessed and documented the site. The site became a laboratory for several classes of students who attended an intensive field school there, gaining hands-on knowledge of documentation and conservation techniques. The end products included a report with stunning drawings, photographs, and diagrams; a building by building conditions assessment; and movement toward stabilization of a historic “beehive” kiln. The project helps to lay a solid foundation for the site’s preservation and makes a substantive contribution to the preservation of the industrial West. The project also furnishes a model for partnerships that is worthy of emulation. For all these reasons the Conservation Praxis Project is deserving of recognition with the Paul E. Buchanan Award for 2014.
Paul E. Buchanan Award Committee
Sally McMurry, chair
Nora Pat Small