05/09/2013 05:43 EDT | Updated 07/09/2013 05:12 EDT

Historic brick factory opens for guided tours in Medicine Hat clay district

MEDICINE HAT, Alta. - A brick and tile factory that was forced to close because of flooding in 2010 will open for guided tours this summer in Medicine Hat's Historic Clay District.

Until its closing, the large-scale plant had been one of the oldest continually operating industrial sites in Western Canada, with operations dating back to the mid-1880s.

It was acquired for $4 million in December 2011 from I-XL Industries Ltd. by the Friends of Medalta Society, which plans to preserve it as a heritage site. The non-profit organization operates the Medalta Potteries National Historic Site.

The cavernous space includes over a century of brick-making equipment, right up to computerized robotic machinery installed just a few years before the complex shut down, said Medalta marketing co-ordinator Quentin Randall.

Last December the provincial government designated the plant a Provincial Historic Resource.

"That entire range of industrialization is evident on site," said Randall. "All the equipment that was in there when it was operating (in 2010) is still there."

Daily group tours, leaving from Medalta, will be launched on the Canada Day long weekend in July and run until September, he said.

An official opening reception is planned for July 13, with a soft-mud brick demonstration of the plant's early manufacturing methods.