manufacturing terracotta pipes and bricks
The men of the community worked at the Pomona Manufacturing Company, and much of the community life was built around the opportunities provided by the Boren family. The factory was active from 1884 to 1976, and was originally founded by J. Van Lindley, John E. Logan, and William C. Boren. The original plant consisted of a small steam engine and two wood burning kilns, but expanded over the years. By 1925, the company included four plants in Greensboro and a mine in Chatham county. At peak production, over forty kilns were operated by over three hundred workers.
In the 1950s, the company began to modernize the facilities, and constructed a new plant at the mine. After a factory explosion, the Pomona Manufacturing Company began to decline, and the town of Terra Cotta declined with it.
The Terra Cotta community was originally a company town for workers of the Pomona Terra Cotta Manufacturing Company. Built in 1886, the company primarily produced terra cotta pipes used in sewage systems across North Carolina as well as products like roof tiles and chimney liners. Company towns like Terra Cotta were communities built around one employer who provided housing as well as shops and other amenities. The Terra Cotta community was primarily African American families who moved to the area for the work. Although the company also employed white workers, they primarily lived in nearby unincorporated Pomona.
Making the Pipes
a look inside the Pomona Manufacturing Company
The process of making terracotta pipes using locally mined clay started with mining and transportation. Milling machines blended the clay with water, and augers then formed the clay with extreme pressure to remove air pockets. After extrusion and air drying, the pipe was fired in a kiln. The kilns originally used coal, and later used oil or natural gas.
Former President James Millikan describes manufacturing process
Work After Work
Terra Cotta workers often supplemented their income with jobs on the side, and family members had to work too. Many younger residents worked as caddies at the nearby Starmount and Sedgefield golf courses. Caddies would hone their skills while watching white players, and got discarded equipment from the woods. Women in the community cleaned and did laundry for other households, worked in the shopping center downtown, or worked for the church.
a community diminished
In the morning of March 29, 1962, an explosion rocked the Terra Cotta community. A boiler at the Pomona Terra Cotta Manufacturing Company blew up, killing four workers. In the years following the explosion, the Pomona Terra Cotta Company and the community began to change drastically. The explosion came at the same time as significant competition from plastic pipes and an effort by the city of Greensboro to expand and incorporate Terra Cotta. The company began to wind down production and laid off many workers. In the mid-1970s, the company moved to Chatham County, changing the landscape of the Terra Cotta community. Many residents mark the explosion as the beginning of the end of Terra Cotta. The housing on ‘the Job’ was slowly destroyed and the few remaining houses are currently surrounded by commercial development. Despite the loss of land, homes, and community institutions, the sense of community remains strong among the residents.
What makes Terra Cotta so unique? The entire town was like one big family, and residents recall their favourite memories. Click below to read about the Terra Cotta Community.
What did kids growing up in Terra Cotta do for fun? Learn about neighborhood games, special events, and the Terra Cotta Hawks baseball team by clicking below.