The Terra Cotta Heritage Foundation, founded by Dennis L. Waddell, is a charitable, non-profit, tax deductible organization with the primary mission of documenting and preserving the culture and history of a 100 year-old African-American community. Terra Cotta was established in the mid 1880s when W. C. Boren, along with others, founded the Pomona Terra Cotta Company. The original purpose of the company was to provide drain and sewer pipe and other clay products to the growing South. In keeping with the general concept of a mill town that was common during the country’s early industrial period, the owners laid out a community and constructed homes for the workers who labored at the plant. The community was located about five miles outside of and southwest of the city of Greensboro in the unincorporated community of Pomona in Guilford County, North Carolina.
The men who lived in the community were the primary labor force for the plant. They and their families lived in company built and company owned wood frame or red clay blockhouses. The wood was cut from local pine trees, and the blocks for the houses were made at the Pomona Terra Cotta Company. The housing conditions were very poor and the homes had no toilets, running water, or electricity.
After the 1960s, the company slowly died out and the community of company homes was torn down. A smaller section of privately owned homes still remained, and in 2003 a few residents considered the idea of uniting with former residents who had moved away. They met and reminisced, sharing food, conversation, and old photographs about the good old days. This event became known as the Terra Cotta Day Festival.
The Terra Cotta Heritage Foundation economically supports the Terra Cotta Day Festival, a community event held in late summer or early fall. The festival is an all-in-one picnic, barbecue, and children’s carnival with music, games, and cultural enrichment. The celebration is organized by and for current and former residents, their descendants, family, and friends who lived and worked in Terra Cotta and who return to the community to join in fellowship to rekindle the memory and camaraderie of their heritage. The festival is open to the public, and there is no cost to attend or to enjoy the food. The community invites representatives from city service agencies, including police, fire, and health departments. Over the years organizers have collected and displayed community artifacts, newspaper articles, and photographs of the people and places in the life and history of the Community.
The Terra Cotta Heritage Foundation has leased a vacant home in the community to house these items that have been assembled. This house serves as the Terra Cotta Heritage Museum. The museum spotlights a period in time that has long passed and documents a people and culture that was common among rural Black American families. Items are on display and available for viewing by the general public at no cost for admission. Currently the museum is open by appointment only but with hopes of year round operations as funds are secured.
Terra Cotta Heritage Foundation has 5 primary goals:
1. Document the more than 500 families that lived and worked in the community
2. Fund the Terra Cotta Day Festival
3. Operations of the Terra Cotta Heritage Museum located at 504 Norwalk Street, Greensboro, N.C. 27407
4. Restoration of the Terra Cotta grave sites located adjacent to the Raleigh’s Cross Road Cemetery
5. Assist the remaining residents of the community in maintaining their property