R.F. Outen Pottery in Matthews, the last known historic pottery kiln in Mecklenburg County, may soon earn a spot on the National Register of Historic Places.
The kiln, workshop and accompanying 1.5 acres have been nominated for the National Register by the North Carolina State Historic Preservation Office.
The National Register is the official Federal list of districts, sites, buildings, structures, and objects significant in American history, architecture, archeology, engineering, and culture.
To be selected, a site must be at least 50 years old and historically accurate, look much the way it did in the past and be of significance to the area where it’s located.
The National Park Service administers the National Register of Historic Places.
Weddington resident Frank Outen, son of R.F. Outen, said it is an honor to have his father’s work preserved.
“Growing up, we didn’t think much about the pottery or how amazing what he did really was. When I look back, I don’t see how he kept up with everything. The kiln really is one of a kind,” Frank Outen said.
R.F. Outen Pottery is at 430 Jefferson St. in a residential area of Matthews. It consists of a large brick kiln with six chimneys.
The kiln was fed by fuel oil that brought temperatures inside up to 2,400 degrees, the heat necessary to fire stoneware.
In 1950, Outen designed and supervised construction of the kiln next to his home.
A second-generation potter, he supported his wife and four children by making items such as churns with lids, rabbit feeders and jugs.
Outen was both salesman and craftsman. He would travel North and South Carolina for a month or so, gathering orders until he had enough to fill the kiln.
Outen would create pieces from local clay, place them in the kiln, then use brick and mud to seal the doors. He would fire the kiln early in the morning and keep it going all day. Several days later, when the kiln cooled, he would remove the finished pottery and start the process again.
Now, 65 years after the kiln was built and 40 years after Outen closed his business, the town of Matthews is pursuing the purchase of the site from the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Historic Landmarks Commission for $270,000.
If the deal goes through, plans call for the site to be cleaned up and the structures stabilized. The town would then look to a task force, led by Paula Lester of the Matthews Historical Foundation, for guidance in developing the property.
Melinda Johnston is a freelance writer. Have a story idea for Melinda? Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Visit www.cmhpf.org, then click “Historic Properties,” then “Survey and Research Reports.”