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

Saturday, June 1, 2013


"The Pines", a tile panel by Grueby Faience

This post will discuss two houses in Westchester County, one with tile installations by Eugene Atwood's Hartford Faience Company, and one with tiles originally designed by the Grueby Faience Company, but installed after Grueby was bought out by the Pardee Art Tile Works of Perth Amboy, NJ. Because I do not want to divulge too much information about the Grueby-tiled house, I'm including an excursion to another Grueby installation in Massachusetts--Dreamwold.


(From W.H. De B. Nelson, “A Country Gentleman’s Farmhouse on the Hudson”, The International Studio, Vol. L, No. 199, September 1913)
Williamson Whitehead Fuller, the General Counsel of the American Tobacco Company, decided to build a summer residence on 200 acres overlooking the Hudson River in Briarcliff Manor, New York in 1909. The house was called “Haymount” after the area of Fuller’s birth in North Carolina. It was designed by the architect Arthur T. Remick, and was built with two symmetrical wings coming off a central section. Mr. Remick designed a house “...after the great country houses of the South, with one large central ediface commanding wings of nearly equal importance on each side. ...The massive entrance, with its simple dignity, the many-paned windows, the little dormers in the roof, are all in perfect accord with the general scheme, while within the rooms have been planned in characteristic Georgian manner.” (W.H. De B. Nelson, “A Country Gentleman’s Farmhouse on the Hudson”, The International Studio, Vol. L, No. 199, September 1913, p. XXXVIII)

(House Plan and photo of fireplace [below] are from The International Studio, Vol. L, No. 199, September 1913)
A large faience fireplace surround was built in the Morning Room, located towards the end of the South wing. “The morning-room has a paneled wainscot and a beamed ceiling done in chestnut, stained soft gray brown, with a faience tile fireplace.” (W.H. De B. Nelson, “A Country Gentleman’s Farmhouse on the Hudson”, The International Studio, Vol. L, No. 199, September 1913, p. XLIV)
Thanks to ceramics historian Richard D. Mohr this surround has been identified as the Hartford Faience Company’s “Owls” panel with, we can assume, additional Hartford Faience tiles and faience sculptural pieces. 

Treadway/Toomey Galleries, 20th Century Art & Design Auction Catalogue, May 20, 2012, Lot #372, p. 50. "Incised owl motif flanking a landscape scene, all covered in a seven color matte glaze, unusual technique imitating a leaded glass window by the use of metallic glaze on the incised lines… ."

Mr. Mohr pointed out that the owls panel was illustrated in the company’s 1910 catalogue:

(From Hartford Faience and Tiles, The Hartford Faience Company Architectural Department, May 1910, reprinted by Antique Articles)
A stock “Owls” mantel is also pictured in this catalogue:
According to an article in The Architectural Record, the porch and the breakfast room are “...paved with lovely green faience…” [most likely also supplied by Hartford Faience]. (Harriet Sisson Gillespie, “The Practical Farm House of a Country Gentleman”, The Architectural Record, Vol. XXXVI, No. 1, July 1914, p. 56)

(From W.H. De B. Nelson, “A Country Gentleman’s Farmhouse on the Hudson”, The International Studio, Vol. L, No. 199, September 1913)

(From Harriet Sisson Gillespie, “The Practical Farm House of a Country Gentleman”, The Architectural Record, Vol. XXXVI, No. 1, July 1914)

At least one other room in the house has a tiled fireplace surround with what looks like a faience over-mantel panel. However, I have been unable to identify which art tile panel.
Most probably a Hartford Faience fireplace surround and overmantel panel. (From W.H. De B. Nelson, “A Country Gentleman’s Farmhouse on the Hudson”, The International Studio, Vol. L, No. 199, September 1913)
Alas, the Hartford Faience fireplace in the "Morning Room" did not survive, but over the years, Haymount enjoyed a colorful history. In 1940 it became involved in the "White Wings" controversy. Mayor La Guardia of New York City and his Sanitation Commissioner, William Carey, briefly focused on Haymount as a retreat for Sanitation workers, the "White Wings," so-named because of their uniforms. The Sanitation workers had already been evicted by the opposition of the wealthy residents of Huntington, Long Island and were looking for a new home. Class opposition also raised its head in Briarcliff Manor, and the City workers had to look elsewhere. (William B. Rhoads, "New York's White Wings and the Great Saga of Sanita", New York History, Vol. 80, No. 2, April 1999, pp. 153-184)  In addition, "The estate was profiled in a variety of architectural magazines, portrayed 'Tara' in scenes from the American classic, 'Gone with the Wind,' and was even home to a Dutch industrialist named Bernard Van Leer who lived on the property with members (both human and animal!) of the Holland Classical Circus. A fire famously occurred near the stables where Van Leer kept four world-famous elephants. The elephants survived…but the east wing of Haymount did not! The west wing was later torn down to retain symmetry. ...After fifty years as a French restaurant, and quite a few years in disrepair, Haymount—which [is now called] “Haymount House”—has been restored to her original splendor [without her two wings, and is now]...a gracious celebrations venue and a farm to table restaurant, Hudson at Haymount House." (http://haymounthouseny.com/vision-the-estate/)

Haymount House restaurant in 2013 without its two wings.


The Hartford Faience Company was the successor company to the Atwood Faience Company founded by Eugene Atwood in Hartford in 1894. Atwood worked for the J. and J.G. Low Art Tile Works of Chelsea, Massachusetts from about 1889 until he formed a partnership with a co-worker, William H. Grueby, in 1890-1891. (Susan J. Montgomery, The Ceramics of William H. Grueby, Arts and Crafts Quarterly Press, Lambertville, NJ, 1993, p. 13) In 1893 Atwood and Grueby formally announced the formation of the Boston Faience Works, and they had two important commissions: the Five Cents Savings Bank in Worcester, Massachusetts and The Charlesgate in Boston, where “...Atwood and Grueby were responsible...for the glaze effects which transformed ordinary terra cotta into faience in a wide range of colors and textures.” (Montgomery, p. 16)
(From “A Faience Bracket”, The Brickbuilder, Vol. II, No. 1, Jan. 1893, p. 4)
In 1894 Atwood and Grueby dissolved their partnership. Atwood moved to Hartford [where he organized the Atwood Faience Company which later became the Hartford Faience Company] , and in 1897 Grueby incorporated the Grueby Faience Company [in Boston]. One of [Grueby’s] partners, George Kendrick, became the modeler for the pottery until 1902, then Addison Le Boutillier became Grueby’s Director of Design. (Montgomery, pp. 21-23, 56) “By 1909 Le Boutillier had produced more than one hundred tile designs for Grueby.” (Montgomery, p. 62)

Grueby learned his craft in the Chelsea, Massachusetts potteries of the Robertson family, the Chelsea Keramic Art Works, and the J. and J.G. Low Art Tile Works. An 1884 review of the Low products criticized them for being 'too hard, precise, unyielding.' “Grueby felt the ‘deficiency’ of mechanically-produced tiles… . By 1895 Grueby challanged Low’s transparent glazes, designs, and the mechanical ‘dry press’ process by producing tiles much ‘looser’ and ‘ruder’ in appearance, tiles with an Arts and Crafts aesthetic.” (Montgomery, p. 11) Grueby emphasized form and color in his creations and “...resisted over-industrialization, preferring to maintain the values of handcraftmanship. ...Grueby workers processed raw clay mechanically and used the potter’s wheel to form pieces, but the modeling was done entirely by hand. Tile production was more mechanized in that it included molds, but multi-colored tiles had to be hand-glazed. (Montgomery, p. 48)

A c. 1906 Tiffany lamp with Grueby base. Photo of item #1951 from the Delorenzo Gallery, 956 Madison Avenue, New York, NY.)

“Two of this country's leading arbiters of turn of the century style chose to incorporate Grueby into their work. Tiffany Studios used Grueby Pottery for lamp bases, and Gustav Stickley used Grueby Tiles in his stands and tables, also accessorizing his catalog with vases and lamps.” (http://www.jmwgallery.com/readingroom/rrtext.html) 
(Photo of a c. 1902 Stickley table with 12-tile inserted panel from a Treadway Toomey Gallery, auction in 2005.)
In an historical assessment of Grueby’s work in 1922, Hanna Tachau states that the Grueby Tile Company “...was the first to turn from the manufacture of strictly utilitarian tiles to the making of an art product that carried with it a message of beauty. ...Mr. Grueby realized that the then-accepted tile of unsympathetic surface and limited color scope did not fulfil its mission nor justify its use. Up to that time, brightly glazed tile surfaces had been treated with acids, or other methods were employed, with unsatisfactory results…[now, Mr. Grueby has] effected simply through firing…[a] soft velvety texture and pure tonal quality which is so characteristic of...Grueby tiles. [These] are especially adaptable for interiors where a warmer, more personal note is sought than is afforded by marble or stone… .” (Hanna Tachau, “America Re-discovers Tiles”, International Studio, Vol. LXXV, No. 299, March 1922, p. 78)


Although not in Westchester County, a major contract for Grueby was the tile work for the farmhouse in Scituate/New Egypt, Massachusetts, “Dreamwold”, for the copper magnate Thomas W. Lawson.  In some ways this house and its tile work resembled that done by Atwood at Haymount, but, also, Grueby's work here shows what can be done using tiles as decoration.
(Photo of Thomas W. Lawson, c. 1905, in the public domain; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Thomas_W._Lawson.jpg
"Thomas William Lawson was born February 26, 1857 at Charlestown, Massachusetts [and died in 1925]. Lawson ran away from home to become a clerk in a Boston bank, and soon began speculating in stocks. ...Lawson specialized in shares of copper-mining companies, which were then a staple of the Boston stock market, and became a multimillionaire during the copper boom of the late 1890s. ...In 1899, he joined Henry H. Rogers and William Rockefeller in forming Amalgamated Copper Mining Company, a company that combined several copper mining companies, mostly in Butte, Montana, and tried to dominate the copper market. Amalgamated Copper was the subject of much criticism then and for years afterward. Amalgamated later became Anaconda Copper Mining Company in 1915. However, Lawson later broke with the financial backers of Amalgamated, and became an advocate for financial reform. ...Lawson authored numerous books, the most famous of which was Frenzied Finance: the Crime of Amalgamated, his controversial account of the formation of the Amalgamated Copper Company." (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomas_W._Lawson_(businessman))

Plan of Dreamwold from James C. Plant, et. al., Cyclopedia Of Architecture, Carpentry, And Building, Vol. 2, American Technical Society, 1912.
Lawson had his residence built in Scituate/New Egypt, Massachusetts. "'Dreamwold' ...cost its owner over two million dollars, and is absolutely unique in the character of its appointments as a country seat reflecting as it does purely the personal tastes of its owner" (Joseph Lewis French, "Lawson of Boston,  the Citizen, the Employer, and the Man of Family", Broadway Magazine, Vol. XIII, No. 11, February 1905, p. 5)
(Joseph Lewis French, "Lawson of Boston,  the Citizen, the Employer, and the Man of Family", Broadway Magazine, Vol. XIII, No. 11, February 1905, p. 6)
Dreamwold Hall "is built in three parts, the central or family building, the guest wing, and the service wing, both of which are connected with the main house by enclosed passages. ...The plan of the house is simple... . The central part has but three rooms on the ground floor; a hall in the centre; to the left is the living and music room; to the right the dining room. The passage beyond the living-room forms a conservatory, and connects with the guest wing, which contains the library and billiard-room on the ground floor and the guest rooms above. The right wing is given up to the kitchen and service, with sleeping quarters for servants in the upper storey." (E. Alexander Powell, "Dreamwold", The Badminton Magazine of Sports and Pastimes, Vol. XXI, No. CXXIII, October 1905, pp. 426-427)

"...the living-room has panelled walls of a warm grey colour. Around this room...extends a unique frieze, consisting of paintings of many of Mr. Lawson's favourite animals. ...The wood mantel embraces a bricked and tiled fireplace, the latter decorated with grapes and vine leaves in colour, with rabbits sporting in the foliage." (E. Alexander Powell, "Dreamwold", The Badminton Magazine of Sports and Pastimes, Vol. XXI, No. CXXIII, October 1905, p. 428)

"The dining-room...is finished in oak... . The walls...contain sunken panels having boldly painted farm scenes... . This room is lighted by a chandelier of unusual beauty [...consisting] of a magnificent Tiffany globe, in the shape and colour of a mammoth pumpkin, hung up on its own stalk in metal and rich glass... . About it are festoons of delicate vines spreading out upon the ceiling in clusters of pumpkin flowers... . Pumpkins also, on a dark blue background, form the decorative feature of the mantel." (E. Alexander Powell, "Dreamwold", The Badminton Magazine of Sports and Pastimes, Vol. XXI, No. CXXIII, October 1905, p. 428)  “For the dining-room fireplace an excellent model was made by the sculptor, Russell G. Crook, and then most wonderfully glazed by [Grueby].” The fireplace harmonizes with the pumpkin blossoms, grape leaves, corn and other farm products decorations in the library. “...the fireplace facing starts on each side with a large golden pumpkin on a dark blue background. On this background the vine wanders over the top with its green leaves and bright yellow blossoms and even flows out onto the hearth with a few leaves… . ...this facing...marks a new era in tile work,--the introduction of hand-molded and hand-decorated work in high relief… .” (“The Interesting Tile Work of ‘Dreamwold.’, The Brickbuilder, Vol. 11, No. 10, Oct. 1902, p. 205)

The dining-room fireplace. (“The Interesting Tile Work of ‘Dreamwold.’, The Brickbuilder, Vol. 11, No. 10, Oct. 1902)
"Leading from the dining-room is the conservatory... . The white vaulted ceiling is painted with green trellises and grape vines... . The walls and floors are tiled, the prevailing colour being green.

”In the library and other rooms of the house a different phase of tile work is introduced which can be best compared to the Japanese cloisonné ware, which is made on a copper background with little rules or cloisonnés of copper separating the different parts of the design. [Grueby has taken this idea and] ...applied cloisonnés of the tile material to the bisquit tile. In between these lines all painted in flat tones are the colors that form the pictures. ...Just in front of the first pair of oxen shown in the library fireplace can be seen five different planes of landscape and these all stay in their proper relations to each other.” (“The Interesting Tile Work of ‘Dreamwold.’, The Brickbuilder, Vol. 11, No. 10, Oct. 1902, p. 205)

The library fireplace. (“The Interesting Tile Work of ‘Dreamwold.’, The Brickbuilder, Vol. 11, No. 10, Oct. 1902)

The Grueby "Oxen" fireplace surround in color. This surround was in a home in Johnstown, PA and was saved by tile reclamation specialist Larry Mobley. (http://www.tilepreservation.com/index.html)

Although there is no attribution for the oxen frieze in The Brickbuilder article, “it was exhibited by Le Boutillier in 1905 and 1906 at the Architectural League of New York. The design has the same linear quality combined with shallow three-dimensional space as the pond lilies and horses on the bathroom dadoes.” (Montgomery, p. 62)

The Brickbuilder illustrates four other fireplace surrounds in this article, but they are not attributed to specific rooms in the house.

”One of the most interesting features of the house is the tile decoration of the bath rooms and the conservatory that are tiled up about four feet high with specially designed cappings. One of these designs represents a line of turtles walking on the golden sands of a tropical desert… . Another bath room has a line of galleons…[, and o]ne of the most effective patterns is formed by three separate tiles which make an interchangeable pattern of water lillies[,…]while the owner’s own bath room is a never ending procession of horses, as a suggestion of Dreamwold’s hundreds of horses, on a light blue background, with the walls and floor of a green tile.” (“The Interesting Tile Work of ‘Dreamwold'", The Brickbuilder, Vol. 11, No. 10, Oct. 1902, p. 205)
“The pond lily tile at Dreamwold was probably designed by Le Boutillier[, ...as was the] ‘procession of horses’ frieze from the master bath[...and t]he ship tile… .” (Montgomery, pp. 59-60)

The Grueby "waterlily" tiles in the Dreamwold bathroom looked like these tiles which came from a Cleveland bathroom and were preserved by Larry Mobley. More of this tiled bathroom, below.

According to Grueby author Susan Montgomery, the bathroom tiles were removed for Rudy Ciccarello, and they have now been restored by the Two Red Roses Foundation, to be reassembled for exhibition.

Lawson kept his estate intact for about sixteen years. "'Dreamwold,' the...estate of Thomas W. Lawson will pass from its owner because high financiers finally wrought their revenge on him. ...Lawson, say friends, lost it and all his worldly possessions...because he exposed methods by which high financiers gouge the stock buyer, 'the widow and orphan.' Two years ago his Boston mansion was sold. Now the magnificent estate...goes under the auctioneer's hammer... ." (Amalgamated Sheet Metal Workers Journal, Vol. XXVII, No. 10, October 15, 1922, p. 15) 

In the twenty-first century the mansion has been "repurposed'' and renovated. "Once the 1000-acre estate of Thomas W. Lawson, known as The Copper King at the turn of the last century, Dreamwold (“Dream Fantasy”) had fallen into a state of serious disrepair.  The developer, Diamond Sinacori, LLC, purchased the property and, working with municipal, community and historic preservation groups, renovated the main mansion house into twenty-six condominiums.  Seven units were developed within the original mansion building and another nineteen units, each architecturally and historically compatible with the main mansion house, were developed in and around a newly constructed rose garden and pool." (http://ignitionre.com/what-weve-done/dreamwold/

According to Merrill H. Diamond of Diamond Sinacori, LLC., "We re-used all of the original tiles (primarily fireplace surrounds) and, to the best of my knowledge, they remain intact in the Lawson Mansion that we converted to 7 condominium units."  (Email from Merrill Diamond to Michael Padwee dated 21 January 2013, titled "Tiles at Dreamwold")  


Another house in Westchester County has an interesting Grueby tile installation. This residence is currently in very deteriorated condition and had been vandalized in the past. The house was recently purchased and it was being repaired by workers a few months ago when I visited.

(Photos taken prior to repairs. Photos courtesy of Michael Padwee)
This house was built after the Grueby Faience Company was purchased by the C. Pardee Tile Works of Perth Amboy, New Jersey in 1919. William Grueby worked for Pardee for a few years afterward as a "manager" and collected royalties from Pardee for the use of Grueby's glazes. (From Susan Montgomery) Pardee produced some machine-made, dust-pressed versions of Le Boutillier’s designs, and Pardee also sold still-existing stock of Grueby’s hand-made faience tiles. Appended to a 1924 C. Pardee Catalog was an earlier catalog of the Grueby Faience Company of Boston. This Pardee catalog includes many of the tiles used at Dreamwold, as well as some used in this building.

Both Atwood and Grueby obtained other contracts for their faience wares in the New York area, and these will be discussed in future posts.

I would like to thank my friends Sharon Gluck and Ira Pearlstein for telling me about the Grueby tiles in the once-abandoned house in Westchester. Also thanks to Richard Mohr for identifying the Haymount tiles and to Richard and the Tile Heritage Foundation for identifying the Grueby tiles in the other Westchester mansion. My thanks to tile reclamation specialist Larry Mobley for the use of the Grueby "oxen" fireplace image, and to Grueby author and specialist Susan Montgomery for her help.

Also, a special thanks to Merrill Diamond of Diamond Sinacori, LLC, the developers of the "new" Dreamwold for the information about the Dreamwold restoration, and for preserving the Grueby tile work.

Diamond Sinacori, LLC

Tile Heritage Foundation

Larry Mobley

Treadway Toomey Galleries

Delorenzo Gallery