THE STANGL KILNS IN FLEMINGTON – 
A CRUEL END TO AN ERA

By Diana Bullock

(Click on the photos for larger views)

 

 

 

 

 

Recently Rob and I received a very disturbing letter from a veteran Stangl collector.  It was upsetting enough that we jumped in the car and made a trip to Flemington, NJ to see what she had described.

The scene was appalling - a complete disregard for private property, community pride and even history.  The old Stangl kiln chimneys were covered with huge and garish graffiti.  This may be typical in Irvington, Newark or Camden, but in bucolic Flemington, the county seat and famed tourist destination, this is indeed shocking.

A peace sign and the word “love” emblazoned the side of the large kiln that had once housed our Hill-Fulper-Stangl Potteries Museum. The smaller kilns were similarly defaced with words like “Dream”, “Peace” and “Love”.  What is even more disturbing than the graffiti itself is the lack of motivation to have it removed.  We were told that the graffiti had been there since the late summer.  It is now mid-February.  

  

    This abominable insult rendered to the skyline of Flemington with its dramatic pottery kilns is a rude reminder of the redevelopment that is occurring in Flemington.  Recently word reached us that the Pfaltzgraff Co, a family owned business since 1811 has completed the sale of their company to an outside firm.  Although the Pfaltzgraff name will continue to exist as a brand, the Pfaltzgraff kilns in York, Pa. are closed down and no pottery will exit their doors again.  Instead, the new company will retail only Mexican and Asian made products in their Flemington facility and other nation-wide retail outlets.  

Apparently, no one seems to care enough to clean up this mess, especially in light of the extensive restoration work recently done to these chimneys (see our 2002 article below). Ironically, when Pfaltzgraff purchased this property in 1978, no time was wasted in sandblasting the giant Stangl logo from the side of the large kiln, as seen in the photos below...


Grand Opening of the Pfaltzgraff Factory Outlet in the former 
Stangl Pottery building, Mine St, Flemington - Sept 21, 1978.
Note the Stangl Pottery lettering still remaining on the large kiln.


In early spring 1979, the well-known Stangl 
Pottery lettering (visible in the upper photo) 
was steam-cleaned from the face of  the kiln,
as this Hunterdon Democrat photo shows.

We have also read about the plan to build a strip mall right across from the old Stangl outlet.  It appears that the quest begun in the late 1990’s by former New Jersey Governor Christy Whitman to preserve the historically important buildings and sites in Flemington has been forgotten and plans abandoned.   Even the old historic Hunterdon movie theater on Church Street may soon be demolished to make way for yet another Walgreen’s drug store...

 

FLEMINGTON KILN UPDATE!!
On March 21, 2006, we were notified that the kiln chimneys have indeed been scrubbed clean of the graffiti!  -  Thanks!!

 

 

Below is an article written in 2002 about the recent kiln restoration:

THE KILN CHIMNEYS GET FACE-LIFTS!

By Diana Bullock-Runge

In 1999, Rob and I contracted with Pfaltzgraff to establish the Hill-Fulper-Stangl Potteries Museum inside the original Stangl Outlet kiln. Initially our major concern for constructing hundreds of pounds of glass showcases inside a kiln was that the chimney was deteriorated and leaked like a sieve. We were very concerned as to whether a loose brick could fall and crash into our showcases. When we questioned our host about the leakage problem, we were informed that reconstructive chimney work was planned for the future but no date set. They advised us that we would have to put up with the leaks and puddles on the floor until the work could be performed. Over the past two years, we crossed our fingers and occasionally nagged gently the powers-that-be at Pfaltzgraff but sometimes the cogs in the wheels of progress move very slowly, too slowly.


Some of the damage on one of the "better" kilns.

Our concern evaporated as we ecstatically watched the work begin in April 2002. Meet our savior, James Bryant of Heritage Construction of Hampton, NJ. James is a mason who trained with his father in England and came here to establish his own company. He enjoys doing all types of restoration work and sees the shape and location of the kiln chimneys as a challenge. The bottle shape makes it difficult to fit the scaffolding snugly against the chimney, and the unique construction of the double-brick walls makes it tricky to remove the outer layer of brick easily.


Restoration mason James Bryant at work on 
one of Stangl Pottery's kiln chimneys.


James' restoration of the double-wall construction.

 



The fresh mortar joints were covered with plastic to 
prevent the mortar from cracking until it could cure.


 

Painstakingly, he removed the old kiln bricks section by section, brick by brick. He has skillfully replaced the deteriorated brick with new, which was carefully matched in color and type. The repair is a close match to the original, but never exact.  This is in keeping with the many old repairs and brick replacements already on the kilns, and certainly gives the old brick surface a lot of character!

While the work of a mason normally takes place on the ground, James’ job was more difficult as he made trip after trip up and down the ladder. He mixed the mortar by hand with brisk movements and made his ascent up the ladder again with hods of bricks and buckets of mortar balanced in his arms.

The small chimney that James first repaired was built during late 1929 – early 1930, and had experienced more damage over the years than the other two chimneys. Many bricks had fallen out or crumbled and this chimney in particular was facing complete collapse had this work not been ordered at this time.

One of the two smaller kilns located on the sales floor inside is currently blocked-off as the bricks surrounding the arched door opening are falling out. Once that repair has been made, we will eventually be opening that kiln as part of our museum display. It will be arranged as it would have looked in its firing days, stacked with saggars and other implements of the pottery trade.

Never let it be said that we don’t have a wee bit of fun in any of our Stangl adventures! Rob harvested a big stack of the used chimney bricks that the mason had removed and discarded. He heaved them off the roof for me to catch. It took real "skill" on his part not to hit me!! We will be periodically offering a few of these authentic Stangl kiln chimney bricks on Ebay. Some of them are really clunky with the original mortar still attached. We know that many dedicated collectors and historians will never pass up the opportunity to own a bit of Stangl history. (Proceeds from the sale of these bricks will benefit the museum – we need to buy light bulbs – again!)

Stangl's kiln chimneys are now restored, missing and damaged bricks have been replaced and mortar joints re-pointed.  These landmark chimneys are once again ready to withstand wind and weather for many, many more generations.  Our kudos to James Bryant of Heritage construction for an excellent job well done!

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