In the 1950’s, a company that specialized in unique pottery and dishware was lured to Miami by the city’s Chamber of Commerce.
The product’s brand originated from the merging of the couple’s last names who owned the business, Clara Winchell and David Arter. They would enjoy a robust business until the early 70s.
First manufactured in Sapulpa, OK, the Arters agreed to relocate their pottery factory/showroom in Miami at the site of the present-day Braum’s Ice Cream store, 2215 North Main. They set up shop in the Pierce Pennant Terminal building, an early-day upscale travel center boasting Colonial revival architecture built in the 20s.
At one time the factory employed eight men and women. An early newspaper article spotlighting local industry reported a production of “$75,000 worth of beautiful dinnerware pieces which eventually grace homes in almost every state in the union and parts of Canada.”
The company produced clay casseroles, salt and pepper shakers, pitchers, dinnerware, coffee services, beverage sets, ash trays, oven ware, lazy suzans, salad bowl sets and other decorative pieces.
The pottery was designed exclusively by the Arters and was sold in retail stores in major cities.
Mr. Arter would attend markets in large cities to promote Winart.
Each piece would begin from a lump of Tennessee clay mixed with talc from Texas in the basement of the plant. Other materials are added to make the “batter.”
The mixture would then be aged and agitated in a 1,500-gallon tank and placed in plaster of Paris molds.
Items would then be removed from the molds, trimmed and finished before being fired six hours in 2000-degree heat in the plant’s kiln.
The next step included the item being dipped in a colored glaze, once again returning to the kiln.
A case is on display at the Dobson Museum, filled with a variety of Winart pottery with its unique “drip” design feature.
Eventually Winart Pottery relocated to Steve Owens Blvd., known then as Third Avenue Southeast at the site of present-day Enterprise Rent-a-Car and a personal loan business.
The “Serendipity Shop” showcased seven styles of coffee mugs, coffee services, dinnerware, pitchers, and ashtrays. The pottery was available in the “finest Majolica glazes” in twelve colors. The company also offered a special line of decorated coffee mugs created to a customer’s specifications.
The showroom also featured imports from 32 countries including baskets from Poland, Yugoslavia, Spain and Portugal. Woodcarvings from Kenya, copper and brass pitchers and plaques from Belgium and Holland could be purchased.
Glass candy boxes, decanters, vases and figurines from Czechoslovakia and bud vases from Sweden were also available.
There were music boxes from Germany, hand-carved olive wood camels from Bethlehem and figurines from the finest Venetian glass from Italy.
In 2010 a feature story appeared in the Miami News-Record by Mary Ellis that focused on the extensive Winart collection owned by Miamian Judy Judkins who had obtained nearly 400 pieces.
Today, collectors still treasure the unique pottery. A vintage collection of four coffee cups from the 50s is advertised on eBay for around $50, a single dinner plate on Etsy for $30.
There’s much more to see at the Dobson Museum, where there is no admission charge.
Hours are Sun., Wed., Fri., and Sat. from 1 to 4 p.m.
A special salute to Dorothy Amphlett, the Ottawa County Historical Society volunteer of the month for September. She serves as the organization’s treasurer and donates many hours each week in this capacity.
Let’s make history together!