The Golden Age for Ludowici
By Thomas D. Houston

About the turn of the century things began to happen for the little railroad station community named Johnston Station.   There were rumors that a large industrial concern would be moving to this South Georgia hamlet and would be a real boom to the economy.   These were only rumors, and no one paid much attention to the idle talk.  The rich delta lands west of Jones Creek in Liberty County (Now Long) had been a source of raw material for making clay brick for several years in the late 1800’s, and the family McDonald who resided at Johnston Station in Liberty County Georgia manufactured bricks there.  The red clay deposits in the delta had proven to produce a superior product, and they were used for the most part  locally in building chimneys and foundation piers of houses.  To day there exists an intermittent stream, which is a branch of Jones Creek called appropriately “Brickyard Branch”, it was adjacent to this stream that the brickyard was built. Although the brickyard operation had ceased by the turn of the century many of the old houses in Ludowici and Long County are still set on the brick foundations manufactured at the McDonald Brickyard.

Enter Carl Ludowici of Jockgrim Germany, a small town near Heidelberg.  It was here that Mr. Ludowici perfected the manufacture of clay roofing tile so extensively used in Europe.  About 1893, Ludowici brought some of his patents and manufacturing methods  to this country and began manufacturing tile in the industrial north, and operated by Americans for several years. Hearing of the high quality clay deposits in Liberty County, Georgia he made local  contact, and began work to establish a roofing tile manufacturing plant at Johnston’s Station.  It was near the quality clay deposits, and had a ready access to one of the main railroads in the country.  Mr. Ludowici completed the construction of the tile factory in 1903 and began operations immediately thereafter.  His company was named Ludowici Celadon Company, which was the evolution of a merger between Ludowici and the Celadon Company of Alfred New York in 1900.

The name “Ludowici” is probably the most mispronounced name of any place in Georgia. The name Ludowici given to the town of Johnston Station in 1906 has intrigued many as to its origin.  Early in the Seventeenth Century in the City of Rome Italy, there was a prominent family called “Ludovisi” who were potters, and made clay products and roofing tiles used all over Italy and Mediterranean Countries.  The popularity of these products spread across the Alps into Germany, where it is said one branch of the family migrated and started the production of tiles with the Germanized name “Ludowici”.

The word “Celadon” is a word of French origin describing a color of blue. One version of its origin is that the color of ceramics made famous by the Manchu of China during the K’ang and Ch’ieng Lung Dynasties from the Tenth to Thirteenth Centuries.  The color ordered by the Manchu was to be “as blue as the sky and as green as the sea”. The color was further developed through a French novel in which Count Celadon wore a flowing cape “as blue as the sky and as green as the sea” Celadon became one of the classic heroes of French literature, and his name was applied to the blue-green colors of his cloak, then to the Chinese ceramics entering Europe.

The factory brought real prosperity to an area of the South that had felt the ravages of the War Between the States, and reconstruction thereafter.  It was reported that over 200 people were employed at Ludowici Celadon; in it’s prime years of operation. Although the pay was quite low by today’s standards, it was the shot in the arm that was needed in the early 1900’s. The plant employed fathers and sons, brothers, and other relatives. The work force was truly a family affair. Automation had not been perfected at that time so the industry depended on manual labor to get the tiles made, however the machinery in the plant that ground, mixed, shaped and tempered the clay was a technical marvel for that day.  The only employment opportunities before that time were lumber, naval stores, dirt farming and livestock on the piney woods rangelands. Johnston Station grew with leaps and bounds with  new houses, soon another railroad, the Georgia Coast and Piedmont Railroad was serving Johnston Station (Ludowici). New mercantile establishments sprung up to serve the increased population.  For the most part, the skilled tile makers, machinists and other specialists came with Ludowici from up north. At least one technician came from Germany to assist in setting up the factory. Even today, there are more red tile roofs on the older houses in Ludowici than any other town of comparable size.  The tile manufactured here was relatively inexpensive, but required a hefty structure to bear the weight of the roof.  Some of the tile weighed as much as 25 pounds per square foot.  
The factory probably covered 75 acres of land.  Mr. Ludowici had a club house constructed, an imposing structure which was the social gathering spot among the employees, and it also had lodging for the wealthy stockholder from up north that came down to see their tile operation.  This 2-story building had an observation deck that provided a panoramic view of the factory.  The “Club House” survived until the late 1970’s having served as a private residence, until it deteriorated to the point it had to be razed, Additionally he built houses for the workers known as “Factory Hill” there were about 25 houses in this neighborhood, and all are gone now except 2 or 3 that still remain. The red clay tile roofs became extremely popular with architects in the United States. Many notable structures are roofed with Ludowici Tile.  The Quatrel Barracks at Fort Benning, GA, the Barracks at Fort Amador, Canal Zone, and the Administration Building at the University of Florida at Gainesville are such examples. There are more red tile roofs in Ludowici, Ga, than any comparable size town.  After 100 years they are still standing.
Mr. Ludowici’s benevolence was widely recognized.  There was a two-room school building that had been a rotting down old store that was the sole educational opportunity for the children of the community. To improve this situation he constructed and donated a brick schoolhouse with a Ludowici tile roof (of course) that served the community for over 50 years.  With typhoid epidemics commonplace in the area, many people died from contaminated water.  He donated a deep well and a covered pavilion to the community as a source of drinking water.  This magnificent structure still stands today. The migration of factory workers from the north to Liberty County brought many families of the Catholic faith.  There was no Catholic Church in the community, so Mr. Ludowici donated the clay tile siding and roofing for a beautiful little chapel in the town.  The framework of which still stands today, and is used as a private residence.   The community was grateful to him for his philanthropy, and as a token of appreciation named the town “Ludowici” in his honor..  This name survived until 1914. For whatever reason, the factory here closed, and the population of the town was again hurt economically.  The great boom had come to an end. When the U.S. entered the war with Germany, there was intense anti-German sentiment in this area. As a consequence, the citizens changed the name of the town to “Liberty City”. This name existed for several years, and after the war it was renamed Ludowici, because the people realized that his generosity was exceptional and still worthy of recognition. The name has survived to this day.

Ludowici’s Golden Age only spanned 11 years, but it was a time of great prosperity and growth.

See Pictures of Ludowici's Golden Age