Touring N.M.

The Saga of La Luz Pottery

Mysteriously, this large kiln at the La Luz Pottery site still houses its last load from nearly 70 years ago.
Jon Knudsen, September 2017

So much has been accomplished by those who ended up in New Mexico “accidentally.” In 1928, for instance, a 47-year-old man from Rhode Island had some serious car trouble a few miles north of Alamogordo, in the village of La Luz. He was stranded there long enough that he fell in love with this enchanted land. He came from a wealthy family with deep roots in American history. His name was Rowland Hazard III.

He did have an issue that money couldn’t solve: alcoholism, even visiting noted psychiatrist Carl Jung for help. Perhaps seeking a new beginning among his pleasant memories, he eventually returned to La Luz — and after discovering high quality clay deposits in nearby Fresnal Canyon, he built two kilns and started mining clay. La Luz Pottery was born in 1930 and lasted 20 years. It specialized in architectural products such as roofing tile, chimney pots and saltillo-style floor tile.

From the moment it opened, two factors immediately came into play. The first was the popularity of mission and Spanish revival architecture in the 1930s. This brought La Luz Pottery a lot of attention, including a showroom on 52nd Street in New York City.

The other item was the Great Depression. But as bad as that was for the building industry, there was at least one positive aspect for La Luz Pottery: the WPA. The Works Progress Administration, part of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s “New Deal,” loved the idea of handmade, locally produced materials. They weren’t interested in efficiency; they wanted to put people to work.

Maybe that was the reason that famed Duke City architect John Gaw Meem specified La Luz tiles for Albuquerque’s first WPA structure, the Albuquerque Little Theatre.

La Luz Pottery was out of business by 1950. It stands pretty much as it did the last day of production. In fact the larger kiln still contains its final firing. Never emptied, 4,000 roofing tiles are neatly stacked and have been waiting in the kiln since 1949. One can only guess what happened.

To learn more about this site, call the Tularosa Basin Museum of History in Alamogordo at 575-434-4438. They will put your name on the list for the next tour.


No comments on this story | Please log in to comment by clicking here
Please log in or register to add your comment
Something to sell?
Place your ad right now —
It's free and easy!
Write a headline
Write an ad

Current Issue Click to view