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

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

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