La Luz Pottery Factory
The La Luz Pottery Factory
Peter L. Eidenbach
May 2012 Tularosa Basin Conference
The La Luz Pottery Factory, one of the most important historic sites in Otero County, New Mexico, was built in 1930 by Rowland Hazard III from Newport, Rhode Island. This April, the La Luz Pottery Factory (listed on the New Mexico Register of Cultural Properties and the National Register in 1979) was donated to the Tularosa Basin Historical Society for long-term preservation and interpretation. The Pottery Factory is of national significance, important to Rhode Island as well as New Mexico, and of particular significance to all the Friends of Bill Wilson because of its association with the founding of Alcoholics Anonymous. The La Luz Pottery property contains 235 acres with water rights, and the extensive clay pits. In 1967, it had eight structures in various structural conditions, ranging from two occupiable residential houses to ruins of industrial facilities. The most prominent structure is, undoubtedly, the firing kiln with its tall brick chimney which still contains 4000 roofing tiles from the last firing, probably in 1949.
These Spanish-style red barrel Mission tiles were used throughout the region on residences in La Luz, Tularosa, and Alamogordo, and are a well-known feature of St. Joseph’s Mission church in Mescalero, designed and built by Fr. Albert Braun, who is remembered for his leadership during the Bataan March. Architect John Gaw Meem often specified these La Luz roof tiles in his designs, including Albuquerque’s Little Theater, the first structure built by the WPA in Albuquerque.
In addition to the famous tiles, the “Pottery” produced some 90 styles of pottery including chimney pots, ornamental vases, strawberry pots, bowls, floor tiles, even ceramic bells. La Luz Pottery also printed an elaborate catalog which illustrated all the available ceramic products, had a showroom on Fifty Second Street in New York City, and sold ceramics in at least 44 states throughout the nation and in four foreign countries.
Rowland Hazard III, the Pottery’s founder, was the scion of a well-known early Rhode Island family. The original Robert Hazard settled in Kingstown, Rhode Island about 1687. His grandson, Thomas Hazard, attended Yale for several years, initiated the family’s textile business, was a founding Fellow of Rhode Island College (which became Brown University), and, as a devout Quaker, was prominent in opposing the slave trade. Tom’s son, Rowland, expanded the family textile business, and after he married Mary Peace, established Peace Dale, RI, where their manufacturing company became one of the most prominent businesses in Rhode Island. Their son, Rowland Gibson Hazard, served in the state legislature, established the town of Carolina, RI, invested heavily in the Union Pacific R.R., supported the temperance, free religion, and women’s suffrage movements, and corresponded with John Stuart Mill and Salmon P. Chase, among others. His grandson, Rowland G. Hazard II, attended Brown. Rowland G. II’s hobbies included collecting birds’ eggs (which became part of the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History) and ethnographic artifacts (which formed the core collection of the Peace Dale Museum of Primitive Culture).
Rowland G. Hazard II’s son, Rowland Hazard III, was born in 1881 at Peace Dale, RI, the eldest of five children. (note how the given names of the eldest sons alternate between Rowland and Rowland G., for Gibson). In his youth, Rowland III was known among his family as “Roy.” He graduated from Taft School and attended Yale, where he was known as “Rowley” or “Ike,” receiving a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1903. Rowland III married Helen Hamilton Campbell in 1910 and served as a Captain in the Army’s Chemical Warfare Service during World War I where he probably acquired some of his chemical engineering knowledge. During the war years he also served briefly in the Rhode Island state senate. His brother, Thomas P. served in the 14th Cavalry about the same time, and during the Mexican War, helped patrol the Rio Grande border between Texas and Mexico. Rowland III may have learned about west Texas/southern New Mexico from his Brother Tom.
In 1927 or 1928, “Rowley” was traveling from New York to Los Angeles when he had car trouble and was forced to stop in La Luz, New Mexico. While he waited for his car repairs to be completed he stayed at the La Luz Lodge, then owned by W.A. Hawkins, the attorney for Charles and John Eddy, the founders of Alamogordo. La Luz Lodge was operated by Mr. & Mrs. Charles Sutton. Allegedly, Rowland was so entranced by our Land of Enchantment that he had trouble sleeping and stayed up all night asking questions of his hosts, the Suttons. Rowland had already enjoyed a privileged upper-class life and had had various adventures including climbing Mount Whitney and going on an African hunting safari.
Apparently, Rowland III returned to La Luz to convalesce from an illness (probably alcoholism) the following year (1928–1929) and began to buy large tracts of ranch property in the vicinity, acquired water rights on La Luz and Fresnal Creeks, and purchased Hawkins’ La Luz Lodge which became his temporary residence. He had discovered high-grade clay deposits on his ranch property and founded Aguadero Corporation in 1930 to begin commercially producing pottery, especially roofing tiles. Aguadero Corporation acquired three farms in the local area, a greenhouse, Nichols’ “Picacho” and other orchards, and La Luz Lodge. The Ganados farm was primarily a dairy; the Bajillos farm raised poultry; and the Antonjos Corral ranched cattle and pigs. The Aguadero Corporation was split into two subsidiaries: Timonel Farms, north of Tularosa (1930; abandoned in 1935) and La Luz Clay Products (1931) which had been in operation since 1930.
The Factory included a commissary (whose ruins still can be seen north of the factory near the main paved road) which supplied meals and supplies for between two and five families of unskilled Mexican potters. Professor Cornelio Rodriguez, from Guadalajara, was hired as the main potter. He was joined by his two brothers, Uvaldo and Alran, who married local Alamogordo women.
Rowland started building his new residence, Antoyos (now known as Coronado Lodge) in 1929 on 40 acres near a spring in Cottonwood Canyon. Antoyos consisted of the main fieldstone residence with arches surrounding a central courtyard, two guest houses, a stable, a clay tennis court, a reservoir for swimming, and bath houses. The main house contained two upright pianos and a full-sized Steinway grand piano, and even a wine cellar. While in New Mexico Rowland III’s automobiles included a Cord, a LaSalle, and a Buick.
The Hazard family and Rowland III had also been actively involved during the previous decade in the formation of Allied Chemical & Dye Corporation which consolidated five smaller firms: Barrett Chemical Company (founded 1858), General Chemical Company (founded 1899), National Aniline & Chemical Company (founded 1917), Semet-Solvay Company (founded 1895) and the affiliated Solvay Process Company (founded 1881). Ultimately, Allied Chemical became Honeywell Corporation.
Rowland III was also a chronic alcoholic who joined the Oxford Groups during this period and consulted Carl Jung in 1926 in search of sobriety. He influenced the founders of Alcoholic Anonymous and is remembered in AA’s “Big Book” as “Rowland H.” Rowland corresponded with several prominent Americans, notably, William Howard Taft and Henry Cabot Lodge. His great aunt Caroline was the fifth President of Wellesley College, and Admiral Oliver Hazard Perry was an collateral ancestor.
The Pottery’s records and the artifacts which remained in 1967 had been conserved by former owner and have also been donated to the TBHS. The first ALLOY “Zomeworks” conference was hosted at the Pottery in 1969 (and reported in the Last Whole Earth Catalog). The TBHS and the Jornada Research Institute are currently planning a full archaeological and architectural survey to help develop the site’s preservation plan.
Special thanks to Janie Bell Furman for her prescient TBHS Pioneer monograph, Roland Hazard and the La Luz Pottery published in 2009, and to local vet, Rick Miller, DVM, one of the major collectors of La Luz pots.