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Fun Things to See and Do in Lincoln (Gladding McBean Facility)


One of the great things about Lincoln is its rich history and unique sights.  For a glimpse into Lincoln's rich history, visit Lincoln's Gladding McBean. Without exaggeration, this pottery can be considered a giant in its contribution to Lincoln's history as well as a heavy hitter all over the world with its clay products.  Yes, the world!  Believe it or not, Lincoln is the home to one of the most elite producers of clay products in the world.  Please read on to learn all about Gladding McBean.  I'm sure you'll agree it's worth a visit to see it with your own eyes. 

History of Lincoln is Captured in Clay.

If you're from Lincoln, you probably can sleep through two sounds that are part of its rich fabric; the sound of passing trains and the sound of Gladding McBean's horn.  Yes, horn.  But to understand how long these two sounds have coexisted, you have to delve into the history of Gladding McBean and how the railroad intersected with it over 150 years ago. The coming of the railroad, in 1861, effected Lincoln's economy by bringing people through who had to stay in town because of railroad transfers.  While it wasn't enough to sustain Lincoln as a full-fledged town, it was a start. The area's population continued to grow with the awareness of the potential for cattle grazing, raising sheep, and mining for coal.

Gladding McBean Smoke Stack Lincoln California

But it was the discovery by a man named Charles Gladding that put Lincoln on the map!  In 1874, Gladding visited California and learned that a large clay deposit had been found in a little-known about place called Lincoln.  After digging into the findings a bit deeper (oh yes, there it is, a pun!) he confirmed that the clay in Lincoln had an unusually fine deposit of white kaolin clay. It's a prime material for creating fired clay products.  Gladding knew this because he was already engaged in the production of clay sewer pipes in Chicago. Gladding, along with Peter McGill McBean and George Chambers, established Gladding-McBean in 1875.  Because of his experience in the clay pipe industry, Gladding knew there was large demand for clay sewer pipes. In 1875, Gladding purchased acreage and was designing the beginning of the new pottery factory.  Part of this original factory included a down draft kiln, boiler, steam press, boiler and roller crusher.  By August of 1875, Gladding McBean was in full operation and the first clay sewer pipers were shipped to San Francisco.  In 1876, two more kilns were added and before long, this factory became well known for producing architectural pieces for building all over the world. 

You know, when you have a factory that manufacturers products made from clay, it's easy to see how growth can happen organically (digging a bit but that is a pun). By 1883, the factory was producing terra cotta for ornamentation and fired brick for building purposes.  It expanded its factory building using the fire brick.  To this day, the ornamental terra cotta roofing tile is evident in the entryway of the building many locals think of first when talking about Gladding McBean-the front gate's office.  After all, every day 100s of workers and many semi-trucks passed through those gates in order to make Gladding McBean the success it became.

How Do You Feed the World's Largest Kiln? 

By 1886, Gladding McBean was a major player in the clay material producing industry.  Initially it used 10,000 cords of wood per year to keep its kilns working night and day.  Later burning wood gave way to using crude oil and eventually crude oil moved over for natural gas in 1939. What started with six teams of horses hauling building materials from pit to pottery to train cars transitioned into heavy machinery, forklifts and semi-trucks working around the clock. All this production was not without some setbacks. Two major fires destroyed the main factory in 1918 and again in 1931.  Both times, it was rebuilt.  In 1956, the world's largest tunnel kiln was built at Lincoln's Gladding McBean, once again putting this small-town factory on the map.

Gladding McBean Facility Lincoln California

From Clay Pipes to Feats of Clay

If you're unfamiliar with Gladding McBean, it'd be easy to drive by it and say, “hmmm, there's a factory that produces very big clay pipes” and think nothing more of it.  But in fact, this factory has produced so much more.  Starting in 1893, Gladding McBean produced terra cotta garden pottery.  This became a huge success and was sold heavily in San Francisco. In 1903, terra cotta garden potter became glassed which then expanded it to flower pots, benches, vases, tables, bird baths and fountains.  All this was produced in Lincoln and sold with great success.

To fully appreciate Gladding McBean, you have to visit it during a month-long series of tours. These exciting and informative tours take place in either April or May each year (note: tours may be different during the COVID-19 pandemic).  The tours are extremely popular and offer many vantages into a fascinating factory.  Most people know they'll see kilns and giant clay pipes but how many are prepared for a three-story elevator ride?  In 1891, just 13 years after the invention of the modern elevator, Gladding McBean acquired the oversized lift that slowly rises from the first to third floor in the oldest section of the factory. This elevator was designed to carry a 4,000-pound fork lift and is the last remaining hydraulic elevator in the west.

The tours require reservations and because Feats of Clay is a fund-raising event for the Lincoln Arts, there's an admission cost of $12 per person. Visitors must be eight years or older and able to walk for the 90-minute tour.  Visitors are treated to exhibits of ceramic pieces, molds and examples of architectural work done at the factory.  There are beautifully designed large photo murals of factory activities made from original glass and film negatives.

Stanford Ranch Self Storage Serves Both Rocklin AND Lincoln

At Rocklin's Stanford Ranch Self Storage, we're committed to providing the best self storage experience in the industry.  We value being Rocklin’s neighborhood self-storage facility and love to share what we know about Rocklin's great community. We also love sharing what we learn about our neighboring communities like Lincoln.  We're just a few minutes from the Lincoln-Rocklin border and want to be sure we extend a warm welcome to our Lincoln neighbors to visit us at Stanford Ranch Self Storage.  We'd love to hear about other great things to experience in Lincoln and hope you'll come by and see us soon!

Gladding McBean is located at 601 7th St.
Lincoln, CA 95648

Stanford Ranch Self Storage


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