A blog about architectural tiles, terra cotta and other ceramic surfaces, architectural glass and ornamentation in and around New York.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Trent in New York--Part II, a Dey Street Restaurant

A 3 1/2" diameter Trent stove tile (author's collection)

     Today, Dey Street West of Broadway is a one block remnant of what it used to be--a busy conduit to the Hudson River and its shipping, and, as one contemporary architectural journal wrote, "...the most artistic buildings that one sees are the cafe restaurants" on Dey and Fulton Streets. (Architecture, Vol. XXVI, No. 4, Oct. 15, 1912, p. 187) It is unfortunate that we no longer have proof of this. 

"Construction, West on Dey Street from Broadway" by F. Savastano, 1934. Mayor Fiorello H. LaGuardia collection, City of New York Municipal Archives, No. fhl_1650-01. Photo courtesy of the Municipal Archives. The Hudson Terminal Buildings and pedestrian bridge are in the background.
     In 1908/09 the massive Hudson Terminal Buildings and the H&M Railway Terminal were built on both sides of and under Dey Street on the West side of Church Street. "The main purpose of the H & M was to connect railroad and streetcar terminals on the New Jersey waterfront with points in Manhattan. ...Hudson Terminal was a marvel written up in engineering and architectural journals... . The property occupied the length of two city blocks along the west side of Church St from Cortlandt St to Fulton St., bisected by Dey St. Above the station, the H & M then built two office towers, the Hudson Terminal Buildings, which brought in rental income. The two buildings matched but were not identical, because the more southerly block was larger." (quoted from "Abandoned Stations" by Joseph Brennan, http://www.columbia.edu/ ~brennan/abandoned/hudterm.html) “The Hudson & Manhattan Railroad Company erected this complex as an investment and as its signature development. ...Narrow Dey Street separated the towers and was transversed with a pedestrian bridge high above and by tunnels below.” (Joseph J. Korom, The American Skyscraper, 1850-1940: A Celebration of Height, Brandon Books, Wellesley, MA, 2008, p. 270) 
     The terminal was in use from 1909-1971 when construction on the World Trade Center was begun. The restaurant did not survive the construction of the original World Trade Center.                                                                       

Hudson Terminal Buildings (right) in a 1909 photo. (United States Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division, digital ID cph.3c25895.)  Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress. Dey Street is between the two buildings.

Trent Tiles Installation

     According to a Trenton Evening Times article (September 7, 1909, p. 1), Trent tiles "...will go into the main dining room of a new Dye [sic] Street restaurant immediately opposite the Hudson Terminal Building... . ...The dining room in the Dye Street restaurant is decorated with a wainscoting of tile six feet from the floor. It is all colored in buff matt glaze, and painted in pinks and greens, harmonizing perfectly with the floor design, also of tile. This general style of the decorations, here, including the walls and panel effects, is all l'art nouveau [a tile line of the Trent Tile Company]... ."
     Although we have not been able to locate images of the tiled interior of this restaurant, and we are not even sure of the exact name or address of it, we have located an image of another restaurant from this period tiled with Trent tiles: Diehl's Tavern in Trenton, NJ, designed by the architect Abram Swan, Sr. The Trent ad accompanying the image describes the tiles: "The body of the wainscoting is composed of 6x6 'DELLA ROBBIA' glazed tile in a soft shade of varigated Moss Green. The Frieze is in 6x9 tile Majolica painted in three colors, outlined in enamel black. The 9x4 Cap, and 6x9 Frieze as well as the tile used for the string courses are all in 'L'Art Nouveau.' The Cap and Base Tile are colored in a deep Myrtle Green glaze; string courses are in a brilliant Ox Blood glaze. The floor is laid by 1/4x1/4 square vitreous Ceramic Mosaic in a rich red color broken by an all-over design in white interspersesed with rosettes in Dark Green and Silver Gray. The border to the floor is in round Ceramic Mosaic, in design and color to harmonize with the body of the floor." (The Architectural Record, Vol. XVIII, No. 6, Dec. 1905, p. 68)

Main bar room of Diehl's Tavern. (U.S. public domain image)
     In a c. 1905 catalog of the Trent Tile Company Alfred W. Lawshe describes Trent's "Della Robbia" glazes as "Stanniferous enamels, and are non-crazing; the colorings are rich reds, greens, browns, oranges, yellows, blues and pinks, as also the most delicate tones and shades of these colors." (Catalog of the Trent Tile Company, Trenton, NJ, c. 1905, original printed by Edw. Stern & Co., Inc., Philadelphia; reprinted by the Tile Heritage Foundation, Healdsburg, CA, 1990s)
Some Trent "Della Robbia" and "L'Art Nouveau" tiles.
     If anyone has additional knowledge about the "Dey Street Restaurant", please contact me.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

American Encaustic Tiling Company--Part I, Tile Showrooms

The New York Showrooms of the American Encaustic Tiling Company

AET factory in Zanesville, OH c. 1912

     The American Encaustic Tiling Company, founded in Zanesville, Ohio in 1877, became the largest floor and wall tile company in the country by the time the Great Depression caused its demise in 1935. In the last decade and a half of the 19th century through the 1920s, AET had a major presence in New York City, not just as a producer of floor and wall tiles, but also as a creator of art tiles and tiles used in architecture.
     AET had its office and showrooms at various locations in Manhattan during these years. However, after Leon V. Solon became artistic director of the company, he created new showrooms at 16 East 41st Street, Manhattan sometime around 1912.

16 East 41st Street c. 1920s and Leon V. Solon (E. Stanley Wires, "Decorative Tiles, Part III, Their Contribution to Architecture and Ceramic Art", New England Architect and Builder Illustrated, No. Sixteen, 1960)
     Leon V. Solon was born in England in 1872 "to a family of distinguished ceramic artists at Stoke-on-Trent... ." Leon was the son of "Marc Louis Emmanuel Solon...[who] had been hired in 1870 from the French national factory at Sevres to become head decorator at Minton's. ...Leon's maternal grandfather, Leon Arnoux, had been a highly accomplished ceramist at Sevres when Herbert Minton hired him to be his art director" from 1849-1892. Leon studied "...classical art...[and] was also trained to understand the practical aspects of contemporary ceramics manufacturing. ...In 1912 Leon became art director at the American Encaustic Tiling Co... . ...Leon's role was to direct the overall development of AET's tile lines." (quotes from Riley Doty, "British Tile Makers in the United States: 1910-1940" in Journal of the Tiles & Architectural Ceramics Society, Vol. 17, 2011, pp. 8-11)

The public domain image above is of one of the AET showrooms in 1918. The tile panel at the rear of the room may be Leon Solon's "Dancing Women" mural. ("Richard F. Bach, "The Art of Display in Up-to-Date Merchandising", Good Furniture Magazine, Vol. X, No. 5, May 1918, p. 292)
     In the 1920s Solon re-designed the AET showrooms. According to Regina Lee Blaszczyk, "...Solon designed the American Encaustic offices as a virtual 'Tile Museum', as a showplace for parading the decorative potential of colorful architectural ceramics. ...If the exterior of the...showroom [the building facade] was the epitome of understatement, the building's interior communicated chromatic splendor that must have bedazzled architects and persuaded many to utilize tiles in their installations. ...This main display area, a virtual symphony in distinctive hues of brilliant blues, greens and gold, was Solon's tribute to maiolica potters of the Italian Renaissance. Here, under the watchful gaze of a pair of black lions, probably modeled after the Greek Nemean Lion, Solon negotiated...contracts." (Regina Lee Blaszczyk, " 'This Extraordinary Demand For Color': Leon Victor Solon and Architectural Polychromy, 1909-1939" in Flashpoint, the Newsletter of the Tile Heritage Foundation, Vol. 6, No. 3, July-September 1993, p. 14)

Photos courtesy of the Tile Heritage Foundation
The lobby

A showroom

A fountain

From Leon Solon, "The Display Rooms of a Tile Manufactory", http://tileresearcharticles.omeka.net/items/show/1
     "The entrance corridor is treated with studied simplicity: a dark Delft blue covers the floor, extending a short distance up the walls...terminating in a rope molding. Two...panels by Arthur Crisp are hung on rough stucco walls. ...[The Reception room] walls are covered with 3x3 inch tiles embossed with a simple Greek fret...colored alternately with red, black, and gold...set at random... . The floor is of large blue-green tiles... . One of the Parthenon metopes, reproduced in faience, is inserted in the wall over the telephone operator's desk. ...The grilles are of faience treated with a vermillion glaze. ...The visitor leaves the reception room through a little vaulted corridor, paved with Tuscan red faience tiles laid at random;...a recess...is decorated with American-Persian tiles... . ...The stylistic treatment [of the main display room] is that of the Italian Renaissance... ." (Leon Solon, "The Display Rooms of a Tile Manufactory", http://tileresearcharticles.omeka.net/items/show/1 )

     Leon Solon's AETCo art department in New York designed the facade and showrooms using a planned glaze color scheme, which is explained in his article. The street entrance and facade were decorated with polychrome faience, including a bear's head over the entrance.

"In 1927, Solon lamented the 'dull and lifeless buildings of today' and called for increased use of color in skyscrapers. ...At 16 East 41st Street Solon found the opportunity to put such theories into practice. The interior was a polychromed labyrinth of tile art, with majolica fountains, faience radiator grilles, niches, cornices and even ceilings in intensely shaded red, blue, gold, green and other colors. But for the exterior Solon sought a more subdued, neutral character. On a wall of light yellow roughened stucco, he laid out a polychrome network -- deep, burnt umber door and window enframements on the first floor, brilliant blue and gold heraldic plaques at the midsection and cream-and-blue rectangular patterns of square tile at the attic story. ...A company brochure of about 1930 shows that American Encaustic later tiled the ground-floor stuccoed facade with a wildly mottled pattern of small rectangular tiles." (Christopher Gray, "Terra Cotta Magic With a Polychromed Interior", New York Times, "Streetscapes", July 20, 1997. (http://www.nytimes.com/1997/07/20/ realestate/terra-cotta-magic-with-a-polychromed-interior.html?src=pm)

The front door and part of the remaining tiled facade, 2010 
(Photo courtesy of the author)

     According to Blaszczyk, "Sometime during the 1920s, Solon remodeled his office, on the first floor facing the street, to create another...showcase illustrating the adaptability of American Encaustic tiles to modernistic interiors. Included in this area...were Solon's interpretations of Augustin Lazo's costumes designed for the Carlos Chavez Aztec Ballet which debuted in...1928." (Regina Lee Blaszczyk, op. cit.) Below is one of ten tiles that Solon designed for the Aztec Ballet.

(E. Stanley Wires, "Decorative Tiles, Part III, Their Contribution to Architecture 
and Ceramic Art", New England Architect and Builder Illustrated, No. Sixteen, 1960)

     Along with his own tile designs, Solon encouraged other artists to design tile murals at AET. I plan to discuss some of these murals in another post.

     Although preservationists tried to have the building landmarked in 1993, this failed. It is believed that most, if not all of the tiled interior of the building has been demolished. Part of the exterior faience has also been destroyed by new tenants/landlords over the years. A restaurant now occupies the first floor of the building, and the two window bays to the left of the entrance have been destroyed.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Trent in New York--Part I, The Bronx Theatre

A framed 6" Trent portrait tile designed by Isaac Broome (author's collection)

Trent Crystal Glaze Tiles: The Bronx Theatre

     In a September 7, 1909 article in the Trenton Evening Times (p. 1) three new Trent Tile Company installations in New York City were described. Although the installation locations were noted, of the three, not a single tile still exists (https://sites.google.com/site/tileinstallationdb/

     The tile installations were manufactured by the Trent Tile Company of Trenton, N.J., which was one of the major producers of art tiles in the United States in the late 19th-early 20th centuries. "The Trent Tile Company was first organized as the Harris Manufacturing Company, c. 1882, but soon changed its name to Trent. By 1892 Trent operated 20 kilns...and by 1910 employed 300 workers. By 1912 Trent ran into difficulty and was placed in receivership. ...The company...was closed...[in 1939]. ...The years prior to World War I, and especially the 1880s and 1890s, were the heyday of Trent's production of art tile. Isaac Broome, who had worked for the Etruria Pottery of Trenton and for the Ott & Brewer Pottery, was Trent's designer and modeler from about 1883 to 1885, when he left Trent to help organize the Providential Tile Works. According to Edwin Atlee Barber, Isaac Broome left enough art tile designs at Trent that many were still being made into the 1890s. Another major artistic influence at Trent was William Wood Gallimore..., an English modeler of portrait busts and vases, [who] came to work at Trent in 1886 and stayed for six years. ...Also, about 1905 Charles Babcock Upjohn, who had worked for Weller Pottery [in Zanesville, Ohio] and the Cambridge Art Pottery as a designer and modeler..., joined the Trent Tile Company." (from Michael Padwee, "The Manufacture of Ceramic Tiles in Trenton-Part 2: The Trent Tile Company (1882-1939)", in Trenton Potteries, the Newsletter of the Potteries of Trenton Society, Vol. 4, Issue 4, December 2003, pp. 1-2. http://potteriesoftrentonsociety.org/publish/Vol%204% 20Iss%204%20December%202003.pdf)

Another 6" portrait tile designed by Isaac Broome (author's collection)

     The first of the Trent tile installations mentioned was the foyer of the Bronx Theatre built in 1909 on Melrose Avenue near 150th Street. (This theater should not be confused with the Bronx Opera House built in 1913 on 149th Street near Melrose Avenue and later renamed the Bronx Theatre!) The 1909 Bronx Theatre was designed by William H. McElfatrick (1854-1922), who designed many theaters in the United States and Canada, including the Manhattan and Lexington Opera Houses in New York and the Philadelphia Opera House. (http://www.sah.org/index.
php?src=gendocs&ref=BiographiesArchitects M&category
=ResourcesWilliam McElfatrick was a principal in the firm of J.B. McElfatrick and Sons, a firm renowned for its theater architecture. "During the firm's existence (until 1922) it designed about three hundred theaters..., including almost forty in New York." (Marilyn Dee Casto, Actors, Audiences, and Historic Theaters of Kentucky, The University Press of Kentucky, Lexington, KY, ©2000, p. 75)

"The facade of the Bronx Theatre under construction" by the Byron Company 
(New York, NY). From the Collections of the Museum of the City of New York (http://collections.mcny.org/C.aspx?VP3=SearchResult_VPage&VBID =24UP1GYQ7VYR&SMLS=1&RW=1261&RH=652).

A photo from Architects' and Builders' Magazine, Vol. XLII, No. 2, November 1909

     The Trenton Evening Times stated that "[Following]...a lengthy series of experiments...[, the Trent Tile Company]...has completed one of the first orders in the country for tile in red crystal glazes. ...In the Bronx Theatre the panels [of tiles] of red crystal glazes are to supplant the imported tapestries formerly employed almost exclusively in decorating theatre foyers. The glazes will be fancifully set off with narrow rims of buff and a margin of tile... . The panels in crystal will be three by six feet." Unfortunately, no photos of the tiled interior of this theater could be found.

Charles P. Lawshe (public domain image 
from "An Interesting Interview", The 
Mantel Tile and Grate Monthly, Vol. IV, 
No. 12, June 1910, pp. 28+)
     A more recent and informative article about Trent's crystal glaze tiles was written by Riley Doty ("Trent Tile's Crystal Glazes", Flash Point the Newsletter of the Tile Heritage Foundation, Vol. 12, No. 3 & 4, July-Dec. 1999, pp. 5-6). While restoring two fireplaces in a 1911 house in Berkeley, California, Mr. Doty discovered the crystal glazed fireplace tiles had been made by the Trent Tile Company. Mr. Doty researched the tiles and has quoted articles and ads from The Mantel Tile and Grate Monthly from 1910-1915 which illustrated the attempts of Charles P. Lawshe, the general manager of Trent and a ceramicist, to develop a new irridescent glaze similar to Tiffany's Favrile glass. Lawshe states that the "Crystal Glazes are of many tones, some showing weird, swirling reflections as a moonlight on water with clear, transparent patches among the crystals; others showing hoarfrost as on window panes; and still others, the surface effect of galvanized iron." Mr. Doty concludes "...that Trent, under Lawshe, introduces Crystal Glaze tiles and tries to market them as a 'higher art' line. ...The evidence suggests that Trent's Crystal Glaze tiles were not entirely successful in the marketplace and hence were made for only a few years." The original color photos from this restoration were located by Joe Taylor, the head of the Tile Heritage Foundation, and Mr. Doty remembered that the main colors were blue and yellow/gold, and the colors were a large part of their visual impact. (6-11-2012 email to the author)

Photos courtesy of Riley Doty
Dining Room fireplace, c. 1911

Crystal glaze tiles from the Dining Room--close-up

Crystal glaze tiles from the Living Room--close-up

     Another installation in Trenton, NJ used the experi-mental crystal glaze tiles--Gaertner's Restaurant, 101-103 W. Hanover Street (no longer in existence). "The wainscoting is 'Jugendstyle' [sic.] in design and is 5 ft. 10 ins. in height. The body is composed of 6x6 tiles, set straight joint in a dense semi-matte sap green glaze: cap, base and liners are in olive green, while the relief 6x9 insert is hand-painted in colors. Alternating with this is a 6x9 plain in a green crystal glaze. ...the frieze runs entirely around the room." ("Floor and Wall Tile", in Brick and Clay Record, Vol. XLIII, No. 7, Oct. 7, 1913, p. 704)

A poor-quality, edited image from the Brick and Clay Record 
of the tiling in Gaertner's Restaurant. (public domain)

     Although I have crystal glazed tiles from other companies in my collection, I do not have any manufactured by the Trent Tile Company. If any readers have examples that I can use here, please contact me.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Introduction & Fred Dana Marsh's Tiles

One of Fred Dana Marsh's terra cotta tile murals depicting New York's maritime history. See all six murals at: https://sites.google.com/site/historictileinstallationsn/ny_manhattan--mcalpin-hotel-marine-grill-room-murals

     There are a number of blogs and websites about existing and "lost" New York architecture. This blog will try not to repeat the information found on those sites as I plan to focus on ceramic and terra cotta tiles used in architecture and architectural ornamentation on both the exteriors and interiors of buildings. Some of these still exist, while others have disappeared forever. This blog will be a non-periodic adjunct to my larger website which is national in scope, "Historic U.S. Tile Installations", and which may be accessed at:  https://sites.google.com/site/tileinstallationdb/.

     The terra cotta tile murals pictured above and below, and eighteen others were designed by the artist Fred Dana Marsh in 1912 and manufactured by the Atlantic Terra Cotta Company for the Hotel McAlpin. "Marsh was commissioned to do a series of murals for the Rathskeller restaurant. Utilizing a favorite subject (boats), he created six 8-foot tall lunettes illustrating the naval history of New York Harbor. One depicted Native Americans paddling canoes out to greet a ship. Others featured pilgrims landing on the shore, Henry Hudson’s Half Moon, a British warship firing on New York, Robert Fulton’s Clermont, and a tug leading a luxury liner with a contemporary (for 1913) city skyline behind it. The murals were transferred to terracotta tiles (made on Staten Island) and installed in the basement restaurant. (There were actually twenty murals with the original six being repeated.) The popular eatery became so associated with the murals that it was soon renamed the Marine Grill." (quoted from Fred Dana Marsh: A Portrait of an Artist in Societyhttp://freddanamarsh.blogspot.com/)

     The murals were almost lost in 1990 after the property owners closed the restaurant and began to demolish the Grill Room. They were rescued from a dumpster by Susan Tunick of Friends of Terra Cotta, and six of the murals are now installed in the William Street entrance of the Broadway/Fulton Street subway station in Manhattan. The tiled piers, walls, ceilings and floors of the Marine Grill Room, however, were destroyed.

Five of the six different panels installed near the William Street entrance, 2012