Bygone La Jolla pottery company’s kiln in search of a home


By Pat Sherman

The owner of property on which the La Jolla Clay Products Company was once situated (adjacent what is now Pottery Canyon Natural Park off Torrey Pines Road) is seeking a home for a kiln once operated by the pioneering La Jolla company.

According to La Jolla Historical Society historian Carol Olten, the kiln is one of two that were used by the company during its existence, from the 1930s to the ’50s.

An oil-fired kiln used to make tiles and adobe brick is long gone, though the smaller, wood-burning kiln still on the site and used through the 1980s to make pots and decorative items is still there.

La Jolla Clay Products Company began in 1928 when accomplished painter Cornelio Rodriguez came to La Jolla from Tomatlán (“Tomato Land”) in Jalisco, Mexico with brothers, Abraham and Ubaldo. They selected the site off Torrey Pines Road to establish their pottery works for its ideal clay composition (known as barro).

The brothers’ tiles were used for Mary, Star of the Sea Catholic Church, the La Jolla Beach and Tennis Club and the restoration of the Mission Basilica San Diego de Alcala, Olten said.

In 1976 Pottery Canyon was dedicated as a San Diego Historic Landmark and became a city park.

The Rodriguez family retained about an acre-and-a-half, which was later purchased by Chin Lai as an investment property. It contains the kiln and a small house, which he rents.

Though Lai said he has no plans to develop the property at the moment, he hopes to find a home for the kiln well in advance.

La Jolla Historical Society Executive Director Heath Fox said the society would prefer the kiln remain on public land near its original site (perhaps in the adjacent park).

If interested in the kiln, call Chin Lai at (858) 349-4359.