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

Monday, July 1, 2013


In the 1970s a co-worker and friend, who was on the board of St. Peter’s Lutheran Church, located at 54th Street and Lexington Avenue, told me that her church had sold its land to Citibank Corporation. St. Peter’s historic Gothic church building (1905) was to be torn down, and a modern church structure was to be built as part of the Citicorp project. St. Peter’s decided to sell its stained glass windows, and if I wanted any, I could go to the church and put in a bid for them. For the past 37 years I have owned two of St. Peter’s J&R Lamb Studios’ stained glass windows. 

"The Church Windows were designed and executed by the J & R Lamb Studios of Sixth Avenue, New York City, and were given as memorials by members...in 1905. They were of the American School of Glass, which was a process used by three concerns, - J & R Lamb, Tiffany and La Farge at the turn of the century. The subject matter, as well as the completed windows, are considered to be masterpieces in stained glass and are said to be irreplaceable. The glass was not chosen solely for color, but for lines of color in the glass to portray folds in garments, etc. In many cases two or more layers of glass were used so that greater detail might be brought out." (Mildred A. Westerman, Church Historian, History of St. Peter's Lutheran Church of Manhattan 1862 1970, Published by the Church in c. 1970, p. 16)

The Resurrection window from which my pieces came. It is a shame that it was felt that the church window installations could not be saved as whole units. (Photo from  Mildred A. Westerman, Church Historian, History of St. Peter's Lutheran Church of Manhattan 1862 1970, Published by the Church in c. 1970, p. 21)
The story of the real estate deal that brought about this situation has been chronicled in Peter Hellman’s article, “How They Assembled The Most Expensive Block In New York’s History”. (New York, Vol. 7, No. 8, February 25, 1974, pp. 30-37)

“Since its founding on June 2, 1862, as the Deutsche Evangelische Lutherische Sanct Petri-Kirche by a group of German immigrants, St. Peter's has faithfully served the midtown Manhattan area. Worship services in the German language began in a loft above a feed and grocery store at the corner of 49th Street and Lexington Avenue. [After several moves the congregation purchased] the former Lexington Avenue Presbyterian Church at the corner of 45th Street and Lexington Avenue. St. Peter's remained at this location until being uprooted by the construction of Grand Central Terminal. The building was sold to the New York Central Railroad in 1903 for $200,000, with the proceeds going toward the construction of a new Gothic-style church at 54th Street and Lexington Avenue. The new church was dedicated on May 14, 1905, and was typical of Lutheran church design of the time. Carved wooden sculptures, altar and pulpit dominated the chancel with a mural of the Sermon on the Mount above the altar, and glorious stained glass windows pictured scenes from the life of Jesus.” (http://www.nycago.org/Organs/NYC/html/StPeterLuth.html)

The Church c. 1920. (Photo from  Mildred A. Westerman, Church Historian, History of St. Peter's Lutheran Church of Manhattan 1862 1970, Published by the Church in c. 1970, p. 5)
“The J. & R. Lamb Studios is the oldest decorative arts firm and multi-media guild in continuous operation in the United States and preceded the studios of both John LaFarge and Louis C. Tiffany. The brothers Joseph Lamb (1833-1898) and Richard Lamb (1832-1909) founded the Studios in 1857 in New York City after leaving Lewisham, England. Joseph's son, Charles Rollinson Lamb (1860-1942), a renowned City Beautiful theorist and architect, greatly shaped the company's aesthetic and intellectual character and business direction.” (http://www.loc.gov/pictures/collection/lamb/background.html

(from the 1899 Yearbook of the Architectural League of New York)

In the course of searching for information about the tile ornamentation in the New York City subway system, I found a 1904 article about the Charles and Ella Lamb house in Bergen County, New Jersey. The house was the Lamb’s summer home on Lambs Lane in Cresskill. Charles and Ella summered next door to his brother and partner at the J&R Lamb Studios, Frederick. 

The Charles R. and Ella Condie Lamb house in 2013, "The Fold", Cresskill, New Jersey, part of the Lambs Lane Historic District. (Color photos courtesy of Michael Padwee unless otherwise noted)

Although Charles Lamb was an architect*, there are only two of his designs that were built: his house and the temporary Dewey Memorial Arch in Madison Square in 1899. (Alan K. Lathrop, Churches of Minnesota: an illustrated guide, University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis, MN, 2003, p. 294)

*[Charles Lamb's granddaughter, Barrie Tait Collins, adds, "The word 'designer' is often put after 'architect' (as: Architect/Designer), because although he only designed a few total structures..., he designed the interiors of many buildings (i.e., Watertown public library…; the National Arts Club--he was asked to redesigned the interior when the club took over the Tilden mansion; the famous Cornell University Sage Chapel with its spacious and spectacular apse covered with my grandmother's mosaics, Frederick's stained glass and mosaic archangels)."] (Email to the author dated 28 November 2014)

The Lamb house in 1904. (Photo: Alice M. Kellog, “An Artist’s Home in New Jersey”, House and Garden, Vol. V, No. 2, Feb. 1904)

This house is of stucco construction applied to a wood skeleton. The stucco "...is a carefully proportioned mixture of Portland cement and sand (or pulverized stone) with the addition of water, applied as a covering to the unfinished outside wall of a structure... ." (Oswald Herring, Concrete and Stucco Houses, Revised Edition, Robert M. McBride & Company, New York, 1922, p. 12)

The back of the house. (Ibid., Oswald Herring, facing p. 12)

The house contains a tiled fireplace surround made by Charles Volkmar which may still exist. The fireplace illustrates “Mr. Volkmar’s method of decorating tile...in the use of enamels instead of transparent glazes, which he is able to shade to the most delicate and subdued tints, to match any variety of marble, onyx, or other material. His ‘old gold’ and ‘old ivory’ are just now popular for decorative purposes… . Another peculiarity of his tiles is the employment of slightly relieved lines, to indicate the design, in place of high-relief effects, which are often decorated in two shades of the same color, or in two harmonious colors of low, broken shades. Some of Mr. Volkmar’s tile work may be seen in...the Boston Public Library, in light gray-blue coloring. In the Market and Fulton National Bank building, New York City, over eight thousand six-inch Volkmar tiles were used for wall decorations, in Romanesque style, the color scheme being old ivory, pale blue, and light maroon. Mantel facings and hearths, with raised designs,...finished in old ivory and gold, have also been made by Mr. Volkmar for many of the residences of prominent people.” (Edwin Atlee Barber, Pottery and Porcelain of the United States, G.P. Putnam’s Sons, New York, 1901, p. 380)

(Photo: Alice M. Kellog, “An Artist’s Home in New Jersey”, House and Garden, Vol. V, No. 2, Feb. 1904, p. 66)

Although the Lamb house still exists, I have not received an answer from the current owners to my inquiry about the Volkmar fireplace surround. [In emails to the author dated 11-23 and 11-24-2014 and in a telephone conversation, Mrs. Barrie Tait Collins, the daughter of Katharine Tait and the granddaughter of Charles R. and Ella Condie Lamb, said that as far as she knew the Volkmar fireplace still existed. Mrs. Collins also mentioned that tiles were used by the Lambs as exterior decorative elements around the front (Dutch) doors, and she remembered that they were somewhat different from the fireplace tiles--they were a bit more colorful. There were other tiles over the door which were definitely more colorful and may not have been Volkmar. They looked more Moorish in style. The Volkmar tiles around the fireplace were very light, and probably a mix of creamy white and very light beige. There were extra, loose Volkmar tiles on the property, and Katharine Tait used some to make two wrought iron end tables, each with eight tiles. Mrs. Collins is in possession of one end table. The other loose Volkmar tiles have been donated to the Newark Museum, Newark, NJ and to the Metuchen-Edison Historical Society (Edison, NJ).]

The Roswell P. Flower Memorial Library. ("An Illustrated Souvenir of the Roswell P. Flower Memorial Library, Watertown, New York, July 11, 1903, Dedication Pamphlet)
About the same time that the Lamb house was being built, J&R Lamb and Company obtained the commission to design the interior of the Flower Memorial Library in Watertown, New York. "[Mrs. Emma Flower Taylor]...the donor [of the library], desiring to have the building as important artistically as it was architecturally, invited Mr. Charles R. Lamb, of New York, to suggest a scheme for the enrichment of the entire interior. ...Mr. Lamb submitted a most comprehensive scheme for the entire treatment of the interior in color, mosaic, stained glass, mural painting, bronze, etc... ." ("An Illustrated Souvenir of the Roswell P. Flower Memorial Library, Watertown, New York, July 11, 1903, Dedication Pamphlet) Charles Lamb asked Charles Volkmar to make the fireplace mantel surround in the Children's Room.

("An Illustrated Souvenir of the Roswell P. Flower Memorial Library, Watertown, New York, July 11, 1903, Dedication Pamphlet)
"One of the novel and most interesting features of this Library is the Children's Room, set apart for the special use and pleasure of the young people by Mrs. Taylor in loving commemoration of her eldest son, dead in infancy. His name and the dates of his brief life are recorded on the bronze tablet set high on the North wall over the fireplace, and on either side are the portraits of his younger brother and sister, bearing Spring flowers as in tribute to his memory. These graceful figures were painted by Mrs. Ella Condie Lamb. For the general color effect of the room, Mr. Lamb selected a handsome bluish-green, to which all the woodwork, the Volkmar tiles of the chimney-piece, the pressed bricks of the walls, and even the metal work, contribute in varying tones. ("An Illustrated Souvenir of the Roswell P. Flower Memorial Library, Watertown, New York, July 11, 1903, Dedication Pamphlet)

Mantel with mosaic decoration in the South Reading Room. (Photos courtesy of army.arch)

"The interesting painting of the" Open Book" by Ella Condie Lamb is located in [...the North Reading Room]. The picture shows a seated figure of the mother surrounded by her children. ...The color scheme in the room is rich and restful. An added touch of comfort is given in an important fireplace of marble, enriched with mosaic... ." ("An Illustrated Souvenir of the Roswell P. Flower Memorial Library, Watertown, New York, July 11, 1903, Dedication Pamphlet)

"The Open Book", mural painted by Ella Condie Lamb. (Photo courtesy of army.arch)

("The Flower Memorial Library", Architects' and Builders' Magazine, Vol. VI, No. 5, February 1905,  p. 200)
Frederick Lamb also contributed to the decoration of this building by designing the mosaics for the Rotunda dome.

A portion of the mosaic decoration of the dome and arches. (Photo courtesy of army.arch)
"Mr. Lamb's experience, covering as it has such a wide field of artistic endeavor, prompted him to advocate distinct changes in the interior, in the interest of a more monumental effect. Thus the rotunda was enlarged, and the dome elevated to the heroic proportions of a full Roman, classic building."

(William Walton, “Charles Volkmar, Potter”, The International Studio, Vol. XXXVI, No. 143, January 1909)
Charles Volkmar (1841-1914) came from Baltimore. Volkmar had “the great advantage of starting as an artist. ...His grandfather was an engraver, and his father, educated in Dresden, a portrait painter and a skilful restorer… . [Charles studied]...under Barye at the Jardan des Plantes, ...and...with Harpignies...in and around Paris. ...while located at a studio...near Fontainebleau,...he became interested in ceramics through the proximity of a small pottery in which he [...tried] his hand at painting underglaze. His first appearance at the Salon had been made in 1875, with two oil paintings, and he became a frequent exhibitor with paintings, etchings and pottery.” (William Walton, “Charles Volkmar, Potter”, The International Studio, Vol. XXXVI, No. 143, January 1909, p. LXXV)

(William Walton, “Charles Volkmar, Potter”, The International Studio, Vol. XXXVI, No. 143, January 1909)

Another biographical sketch states that it was at the Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia in 1876 that Volkmar “saw for the first time a French pottery that was decorated with an underglaze ‘slip’. ...Fascinated…, he returned to France...to observe the local potters employing this method. Charles [joined] the Theodore Deck pottery, later taking an apprenticeship at the Haviland factory… .”  (“The Volkmar Legacy to American Art Pottery”, a booklet published by The Bruce Museum, Greenwich, Connecticut, 1985) “[Volkmar] took up the French technique of barbotine—painting on a vase with liquid clay or slip. [He was o]ne of the most skilled practitioners of this technique… .” (http://www.antiquesandfineart.com/articles/article.cfm?request=953

A Volkmar plaque made in France circa 1877. Photo courtesy of Peter Roan.

Volkmar moved his pottery from place to place during the last part of the Nineteenth century and prior to his death in 1914. “Charles built a kiln at Greenpoint, Long Island, in 1879 where he produced tiles and vases. He was the first potter to use underglaze slip painting in the United States.” (http://siris-archives.si.edu/ipac20/ipac.jsp?uri=full=3100001~!213244!0)

A sunset landscape tile in color courtesy of the Tile Heritage Foundation.

Volkmar "...made vases and tiles depicting pastoral landscapes and barnyard scenes. 

Two vases made by Charles Vilkmar, c. 1881. These were part of the "Edward Lycett and Brooklyn's Faience Manufacturing Company" exhibit at the Brooklyn Museum of Art, May 3-June 16, 2013.

"Fireplace tiles produced under Volkmar’s direction were shown at an 1880 exhibition of the Salmagundi Club. In 1882 Volkmar moved the pottery to Tremont, now the Bronx… .” (Norman Karlson, The Encyclopedia of American Art Tiles, Volume I, Region 2, Schiffer Publishing Company, Atglen, PA, 2005, p. 127)  

Tile made at the Menlo Park Ceramic Works.

In 1888 [Volkmar] moved to Menlo Park, New Jersey where he and J.T. Smith started the Menlo Park Ceramic Works. Volkmar “...used opaque glazes and low relief lines to define compositions, instead of the high line relief commonly employed at the time.” (Karlson, p. 127) While they were partners, their tiles were marked “MENLO PARK/CERAMIC WORKS/VOLKMAR TILES” on the reverse. After their partnership dissolved, Smith took over and the last line in the marking was changed to “J  T  S”. The reverse side of dust-pressed tiles produced by both companies looked like this:

From Michael Padwee, A Field Guide to the Key Patterns on the Backs of United States Ceramic Tiles, 1870s-1930s, 3rd Ed., 2nd Printing, Jan. 2011, p. 32; http://tilefieldguide.omeka.net/items/show/49

According to the Tile Heritage Foundation the "Menlo Park Ceramic Works...made enameled terra-cotta tiles for the Rockefeller mansion at Tarrytown, NY (tiles that matched the marble and onyx uses on other walls in the building... . The company provided terra-cotta panelling with high relief decoration in Italian Renaissance style, which was enameled to match marble wainscoting in the Rockefeller mansion in New York.  Charles Volkmar decorated tiles with opaque enamels to tone with onyx, marble etc., or in old gold or old ivory." (Email to Michael Padwee dated 12/11/12 and titled "Fwd: Volkmar and Poor from THF files") 

(Edwin Atlee Barber, The Pottery and Porcelain of the United States, G.P. Putnam's Sons, New York, 1901, p. 379)

Another of Volkmar's projects was mentioned in a January 17, 1891 communication from the Trustees of the Boston Public Library that details a $7433 expense for "Brick and tile work...including...Volkmar tiles on walls [in light gray-blue coloring]." (Documents of the City of Boston for the Year 1891, Volume I, Doc. No. 6, p. 3, "Public Library, Communication from Trustees", Rockwell and Churchill, 1892) Although there were ongoing hearings between the City Council of Boston, the Trustees of the Public Library, and the architects, McKim, Mead and White, about cost overruns during 1891, Charles Volkmar had been hired, probably by McKim, to tile the interior walls of the new library building.

The Salmagundi Club

Volkmar was an active member of the Salmagundi Club, and according to Bob Mueller, the Club's archivist, introduced etching to, and taught etching at, the Club. Volkmar was the official potter for the Salmagundi Club, which was "[originally] called the New York Sketch Class, and later called the New York Sketch Club,[... and] had its beginnings at the eastern edge of Greenwich Village in sculptor Jonathan Scott Hartley's Broadway studio, where a group of artists, students, and friends...gathered weekly on Saturday evenings. The club formally changed its name to The Salmagundi Sketch Club in January 1877. ...In 1894, to raise money for the growing club's library, artist members were invited to decorate ceramic mugs, which were then fired by Charles Volkmar, the club potter. The club would host a dinner followed by an auction of the finished mugs... Over the years, many decorated mugs have been returned to the club and are on exhibit in the library... ." (http://www.nelso.com/us/place/332435/)  According to William Henry Shelton twenty-four "Library Mugs" were decorated by artist-members, signed and numbered, glazed and fired by Charles Volkmar, and auctioned at a special Library dinner once a year. (William Henry Shelton, The Salmagundi Club, Houghton Mifflin Co., Boston, 1918, pp. 101-102)  I assume these mugs were either thrown by Volkmar, or were blanks supplied by a pottery for china painters.

Members' mugs that were not to be auctioned. Photos from The Salmagundi Club.

The mug decorated by Edwin "Ned" Abbey and auctioned off at the 1906 Salmagundi Library Dinner. "The decoration was unique. An English barmaid at the door of a village inn is portrayed on one side, and on the other...are three very Abbeyesque figures--a jolly roysterer with pipe and bowl, a bell ringer, and a half-tipsy Puritan. [...A couplet circles the top and bottom]: 'He that will not merry be, with generous bowl and toast,[/]May he in Bridewell be shut up and fast bound to a post.'" (Charles Henry Dorr, "The Salmagundi Club: Its Fiftieth Milestone", Arts & Decoration, Vol. XVI, No. 3, Jan. 1922, p. 201)

The Salmagundi Club, at 14 West 12th Street, Manhattan, was decorated by its members and in January 1898 the Club announced that "...a design had been accepted for a tiled fireplace in the 'smoking room' and that a dinner would take place on January 25 at which tiles would be painted. The design for the fireplace was by Arthur Blackmore and William C. Ostrander. At this time the Club had its own potter,...Charles Volkmar,...and the tiles were burned under a heavy glaze. They were...four inches square, and the variety of design was secured by massing tiles for the central and flanking pictures. The single tiles for borders and filling in around the designs were...painted at this...dinner.

The tiled fireplace and some of the member's decorated mugs at the Salmagundi Club. (Pauline King, "Decorated Mugs at the New York Salmagundi Club", The House Beautiful, Vol. VI, No. 6, Nov. 1899, p. 281)

"The large central picture below the mantelpiece was a Dutch landscape by A. T. Van Laer, and the upright panels at the sides of the fireplace were single figures by Paul Dessar and I. H. Josephi, each three tiles wide by eight tiles high, and the central design by Van Laer was irregular in form on forty tiles. Flanking this center design was a group of Dutch fishing boats by Will H. Drake on sixteen tiles and a Dutch landscape by J. J. Redmond." (William Henry Shelton, The Salmagundi Club, Houghton Mifflin Co., Boston, 1918, p. 84)  "125 members and guests dined in...the club [that night] and proceeded thereafter with the painting of tiles... . ...The work of the evening was on individual tiles, without restriction of design, which are to form the four-inch borders. All the work is in a warm brown tone, as the completed fireplace is to be set up in the red cafĂ©." ("At the Salmagundi Club", The New York Times, Feb 5, 1898) 

One half of the Library of the Salmagundi Club. Mugs are in the far cabinet and in cases on the mantles of the two fireplaces. (Photos courtesy of Michael Padwee. Taken with the permission of the Salmagundi Club.)

The Abbey Mug is third from the left.

It is not known what happened to the original fireplace surround when the Salmagundi Club moved into new quarters in 1917, but the mugs now reside in the library of the new building at 47 Fifth Avenue.

Although Charles Lamb was not a member of The Salmagundi Club, his nephew, Adrian, was, and he donated one of his father's--Frederick's--stained-glass windows to the Club.
Volkmar Kilns tile, ("Notes on the Crafts and Industrial Arts", The International Studio, Vol. 25, No. 97, March 1905, p. IX)

“In 1895 Volkmar...opened the VOLKMAR KERAMIC CO., at 39 Greenpoint Avenue, Brooklyn, producing art tiles and household ceramics, primarily in a Delft-inspired style. 

37-39 Greenpoint Avenue, Brooklyn. Site of the Volkmar Keramic Works. (Photo courtesy of Michael Padwee)

"The same year, he and artist Kate Cory established VOLKMAR & CORY in the Corona section of the Bronx. The designs produced here were similar to those of Volkmar Keramic--Delft-style American scenes in blue underglaze on a white background. ...these pieces [had] ...a greater amount of detail and texture than the traditional Dutch [Delftware] ceramics. [This] work ...won a gold medal at the 1895 Atlanta Exposition. By late 1896, however, this partnership was dissolved. Volkmar continued the pottery alone as CROWN POINT POTTERY, and then as VOLKMAR POTTERY.” (Karlson, p. 127)
Another Volkmar Kilns tile
A Volkmar landscape tile courtesy of the Tile Heritage Foundation.

At this point in time Volkmar was called "...a modern Palissy. Like the French potter of the sixteenth century, he is willing to do the finest things in clay, and he is so critical of his own work as to sacrifice every piece which does not please his better judgment. He works in the spirit of a Greek potter of the best period: caring nothing for ornament that is not essential to the design; but strenuously seeking harmony of line, grace of proportion, depth and suavity of tone. His productions are not for the moment... ." ("An Arts and Crafts Exhibition", The Craftsman, Vol. II, No. 1, April 1902, p. 50)

In December 1902 The Clay-Worker wrote, "In a little building at Corona...some of the finest art ware in the world is being made to-day. ...The little plant is owned by Charles Volkmar and the...process that he uses is so slow and the variety of his output is so great that it...keeps the amount of his output very low. Every set is modeled different from the one before it, and should it not vary enough...it is immediately destroyed, as one great point in the manufacture of this class of goods lies in the variation of design." (Vol. XXXVII, No. 5, May 1902)

"Just as with the early Dutch tile designers, simplicity of design was aimed at, so the Volkmars avoid all florid or realistic effects, maintaining a conventionalism which, while formal, is graceful and decorative. The three illustrations...show a conventional leaf, a medieval ship, and a duck. ...The designers were Charles Volkmar and J. Hoagland." ("Notes on the Crafts and Industrial Arts", The International Studio, Vol. 25, No. 97, March 1905, p. IX)

“His son, Leon, was an accomplished potter and [in 1903] formed a partnership with [Charles]. When the kiln was moved to Metuchen, New Jersey, the name was changed to [Volkmar Kilns and then] Charles Volkmar and Son. 

Volkmar vases with multiple glazes. (Clara Ruge, "Amerikanische Keramik", Dekorative Kunst, Vol. IX, No. 4, Jan. 1906, p. 167)
"In 1911 the partnership dissolved and Leon moved to Bedford, New York[...and] established Durant kilns… .” (http://siris-archives.si.edu/ipac20/ipac.jsp?uri=full=3100001~!213244!0)

(Author's collection)

An impressed Volkmar mark on the above tile. The W. H. Jackson Co. was  a company that designed and supplied tiled fireplace surrounds, mantels, grates, and metal work for buildings. It still exists on 17th Street near Broadway.

Many of Volkmar’s art tiles were marked on the obverse with a script “V” or impressed or ink-stamped “VOLKMAR” on the reverse.
(William Walton, “Charles Volkmar, Potter”, The International Studio, Vol. XXXVI, No. 143, January 1909)

Volkmar also created special sculptural works for friends. One such work was two concrete and tile vases made for the Pattison house in Colonia, New Jersey which was built in 1907. Frank A. Pattison was an early graduate from the Rutgers University electrical engineering program. He and his brother were partners in the engineering firm, Pattison Brothers in New York City. Mary Pattison turned part of the house into an experimental station to solve housekeepers' problems, The New Jersey Housekeeping Experimental Station. "The purpose of the experiment station was to alleviate the many and various domestic burdens traditionally encountered by women during that time. To counter the strain of endless housework the women tested different sources of energy, such as electric motors, to power some household appliances. Mary believed that the same principles behind the management of work through the progression of science that existed in the world of industry could be applied to the realm which the traditional woman at that time inhabited. In 1949 Mary Pattison wrote a history of Colonia, New Jersey. (http://andyswebtools.com/cgi-bin/p/awtp-pa.cgi?d=plainfield-garden-club&type=4349)

The Pattison House with the Volkmar tile and concrete vases. (Robert Leonard Ames, "The House in the Suburbs", American Homes and Gardens, Vol. XI, No. 2, February 1914, p. 44, Photo by T.C. Turner)

House and Garden magazine describes the vases and their relation to the house: "The low, unornamented terrace...is some 15 feet wide with a path across it, and it is just three low steps above the driveway. The steps are as broad as the entrance porch, which adds to the feeling of lowness. They are decorated at each end with a low vase on brick foundation piers. These vases...were made of concrete and Volkmar tiles... ." ("Simplicity in a Suburban Home", House & Garden, Vol. XXVII, No. 6, June 1915, pp. 416-417)

Although probably not close friends, Charles Lamb’s and Charles Volkmar’s lives intersected through their professional lives and participation in artists’ clubs in New York such as, the Architectural League of New York and the National Arts Club. “...in his professional practice Lamb specialized in ‘ecclesiastical architecture and memorial and historical art.’ He designed the arch erected in Madison Square to mark the home-coming of Admiral Dewey as well as the Court of Honor of the Hudson-Fulton Celebration in 1909. Among his interiors are the splendid mosaics in the Sage Memorial Chapel at Cornell University, the Lakewood Memorial Chapel in Minneapolis, portions of the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, the Episcopal Cathedral in Denver, the Church of the Ascension in Pittsburgh, and St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Richmond. His deep interest in and skilful practice of these more traditional aspects of architecture led to his membership in the National Society of Arts and Crafts. He must have looked favorably on the kind of arts and crafts buildings, gardens, and furniture championed by The Craftsman, the journal in which his article on city planning[, ‘The Possibilities of the Esthetic Development of Our City,’] appeared and that served as the voice of the arts and crafts movement in America.” (http://www.library.cornell.edu/Reps/DOCS/lamb.htm)

“The Dewey Arch was a triumphal arch that stood from 1899 to 1901 at Madison Square in Manhattan, New York. It had been erected for the parade in honor of Admiral George Dewey to celebrate his victory in the Battle of Manila Bay at the Philippines in 1898.” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dewey_Arch; Photo is in the Public Domain; LC ID Number: cph.3g02649)

The Dewey celebration was “...the first occasion in New York of a civic function receiving artistic treatment, and the credit rests with the National Sculpture Society. ...Their scheme involves the erection of a triumphal arch in Madison Square… . Approaching it from the north and the south will be an avenue of columns, extending a distance of a block each way. ...it was decided to make the arch conform to the design of the Arch of Titus. This was...the...suggestion of Mr. Charles R. Lamb, and to him was confided the duty of...acting as architect during construction. The arch and its approaches are to be the setting of a large array of sculpture.” (“Decorations for the Dewey Reception”, The Artist, Vol. XXV, Sept. 1899, p. xxxviii)

The Municipal Art Society

The Dewey celebration was a natural outcome of the founding of The Municipal Art Society in 1893 by Frederick and Charles Lamb, among others. "The municipal art movement was not necessarily a quest for a ‘White City’... . Municipal artists sought the 'judicious use of color', as a way to enliven the street... . Many proponents wanted municipal art to be colourful in the sense of being indigenous. Art must appeal to the great masses of the public, wrote Frederick S. Lamb in 1897. It must 'tell the story of the human heart', whereby 'the daily struggle of the individual is felt and recorded'... . Municipal art proponents did, however, desire order and cleanliness. Its members detested crassness, banality, litter, billboards, and pushed for, and got, designed plaza entryways, triumphal arches, monuments in public squares, embellishments on bridges, and planned groupings of public buildings. But they generally stressed small changes. They wanted civic buildings and places adorned... ." (Emily Tallen and Cliff Ellis, "Cities as Art: Exploring the Possibility of an Aesthetic Dimension in Planning", Planning Theory & Practice, Vol. 5, No. 1, 11–32, March 2004, p. 4; http://www.scribd.com/doc/99945165/City-planning-as-Art

Through the Municipal Art Society Charles Lamb was involved in other city beautification activities. When Manhattan needed street signage that could be seen clearly by passengers in a moving electric car, Charles Lamb worked out a solution proposed by a committee of the Municipal Art Society: "[This] was a triangular sign with one apex pointing towards the centre of the street, the name of the cross street being placed upon the two sides of the triangle seen from the street car." ("Current Notes on Public Art", Municipal Affairs, Vol. VI, No. 2, June 1902, p. 275)

In 1905 Lamb proposed an express highway to run along the West side of Manhattan. It was ahead of its time.

"1905 proposal by Architect Charles Lamb: photo of watercolor”; bpm_0440; Photo courtesy of the New York City Municipal Archives.

Lamb also wrote about his view of building an artistic and practical city. He stated that, "Although American cities are considered the most rapid-growing in the world, they yet have their origin in those combinations of commerce which brought them into contact with the business of the country. Thus, with no comprehensive plan, established in advance, to direct such cities' growth, they inevitably developed in an erratic way. The innumerable difficulties caused by the ownership of realty has prevented any but the most accidental improvement, even when improvement was possible. ...Indefinite statements about an 'Ideal City,' the 'City Beautiful,' or a 'City of the Future,' mean little, unless they embody the practical ideas which inevitably dictate the development of the schemes. Municipal Art must have for its foundation practicability. Its very essence is dependent upon the harmonious relations between this and beauty, and, therefore, a city planned to be developed in artistic and aesthetic directions, must be based upon the most practical plan. And what is such a plan? To the writer's mind, all forms of rectilinear designs must be discarded. The cutting of these with diagonals is, after all, but a make-shift. If not an oblong or a square, what form would be the basic one upon which to found the city? After the fullest consideration of all the possibilities that geometric figures give, the writer is tempted to suggest the scheme shown in the accompanying diagram, the hexagon. 

(Lamb, p. 5)
"This permits the development of the city to the utmost that might be possible within many decades, because with the hexagon, the great advantage of the diagonal already discussed is secured, and, at the same time, intervening spaces which can be secured for playgrounds and park areas, between the large central areas, which, in turn, can be used for groups of civic buildings in certain parts of the city, and, again, in other parts of the city seats of learning, recreation, business in all its forms, banking, publishing, the newspaper industries, and the thousand and one trades, which, in their turn, seem to be desirous of grouping themselves around a common center." (Charles R. Lamb, "City Plan", The Craftsman, Vol. 6, No. 1, April 1904, pp. 3, 6; see also, http://www.library.cornell.edu/Reps/DOCS/lamb.htm)

The Lakewood Memorial Chapel

Lakewood Memorial Chapel, Minneapolis (Photo taken by Todd Murray in 2006; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Lakewood_Chapel.jpg#file
Possibly one of Lamb’s greatest creations was the Lakewood Memorial Chapel in Minneapolis: “The Lakewood Memorial Chapel was designed by prominent Minneapolis architect Harry Wild Jones and was modeled after the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul, Turkey.

(Photo of Hagia Sophia courtesy of Michael Padwee)

"The chapel interior was created by New York designer Charles Lamb and many consider it the most perfect example of Byzantine mosaic art in the United States. In 1909, Lamb traveled to Rome to enlist the services of six highly accomplished mosaic artists who had recently completed a project in the Vatican. The artists created more than 10 million mosaic pieces, called tessellae, from marble, colored stone, and glass fused with gold and silver. The artists then traveled to Minneapolis to assemble the work inside the chapel. Upon its completion in 1910, the Lakewood Memorial chapel was the only building in the country with an authentic mosaic interior. The chapel dome is 65 feet high and ringed with stained-glass windows that serve as a sundial telling the time of day and season. Below the dome on the walls are four, fascinating large mosaic figures based on paintings by Lamb’s wife, Ella Condie Lamb, a noted portrait artist of her time. They represent Love, Hope, Faith and Memory.” (http://www.scgpr.com/41-stories/istanbul-in-minneapolis/)

(Photos of the Lakewood Memorial Chapel courtesy of Jonathan P. Ellgen)

Ella Condie Lamb (1862-1936) was an artist in her own name, and she designed a number of stained glass works of art that were executed by the J&R Lamb Studios. "Ella Condie Lamb was born in New York where, at age 16, she enrolled in the National Academy of Design. After further study at the New York Art Students League, in London, and in Paris at the Colarossi academy, she began receiving recognition for her mosaics and stained glass, as well as paintings, sculptures, and illustrations." (http://arcadiasystems.org/academia/cassatt6f.html

"The mosaic decoration of the apse [of the Sage Memorial Chapel at Cornell University] was created by J&R Lamb Studios of New York...[, and the] interior building has a rich and detailed history with many of the artistic renderings representing numerous Christian and educational themes." (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sage_Chapel)

The lower mosaic frieze in the Sage Memorial Chapel was designed by Ella Condie Lamb. (Photo courtesy of Cornell010 at the English language Wikipedia; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Sagechapel.jpg)

Parts of the Sage Memorial Chapel at Cornell University were designed by Ella Condie Lamb.

The National Arts Club

“The National Arts Club was founded in 1898 by Charles de Kay, the literary and art critic for The New York Times for 18 years. He and a group of distinguished artists and patrons conceived of a gathering place for artists, patrons and audiences in all the arts. American art at the turn of the century had begun to look inward for inspiration, rather than to Europe, and the American art world was alive with energy. As The National Arts Club moved into its first home in a townhouse on 34th Street, American art had found a new home.” (http://www.nationalartsclub.org/Default.aspx?p=DynamicModule&pageid=337064&ssid=235561&vnf=1)  "The National Arts Club admitted women on a full and equal basis from its inception. ...Charles Spencer Trask, Charles Rollison Lamb, Charles de Kay and the other co-founders recognized the importance of many female artists and saw no reason to treat them differently from male artists." (http://www.nationalartsclub.org/Default.aspx?p=DynamicModule&pageid=337064&ssid=235561&vnf=1)

The two brownstones on the left are 35 and 33 West 34th Street. I'm assuming that 37 and 39 West 34th Street were similar. This block is between Fifth Avenue and Sixth Avenue. (From the collection of the Municipal Archives of New York, "31 West 34th Street. North River Savings Bank, ca. 1905", http://collections.mcny.org/C.aspx?VP3=SearchResult_VPage&VBID=24UP1G76GB8A&SMLS=1&RW=1286&RH=664&PN=1)
When the National Arts Club was located at 37 West 34th Street, Manhattan, it expanded in 1900 to include 39 West 34th Street. The expansion was commemorated by the Club's first arts and crafts exhibition in November 1900 at which Charles Volkmar exhibited eight works and Charles Lamb chaired the Art Committee. 

A page from the Catalog of the First Exhibition of Arts and Crafts at the National Arts Club,  November-December 1900. (Photo is in the public domain; http://www.aaa.si.edu/collections/images/collection/national-arts-club-records-9697

Both townhouses were decorated by Charles Lamb, who was a member. “Green predominates, for the Club keeps to its colors--green and gold, however, sparingly.”  Another member, Charles Volkmar, helped decorate the grill room, which was in the basement of 39 West 34th Street. 

“The grill room will accommodate from 80 to 100 guests. It is finished with a high wainscoting of green, and the walls above are tiled with Volkmar tiles… . There are fireplaces with tuns [beer casks], with shining spigots, set into the wall on either side… . ...with the dull tones of the wood, the soft tones of the tiling, and maids in waiting in Dutch costume, it is one of the most attractive rooms in the house.” (“The National Arts Club”, The New York Times, December 2, 1900) It is not known if these were decorated tiles, and neither building has survived the commercialization of the area.
Exhibition, New York Society of Keramic Arts at the National Arts Society, 1909.   (http://www.aaa.si.edu/collections/images/collection/national-arts-club-records-9697)

A Volkmar landscape tile, marked, upper right.
Photo courtesy of Peter Roan.

The First Unitarian Church of Philadelphia

The First Unitarian Church of Philadelphia. (Photo courtesy of maps.google.com.)
The Lambs specialized in ecclesiastical works, and another of the Lambs' commissions was a memorial tablet for Algernon Sydney Roberts and Elizabeth Cuthbert Roberts in the First Unitarian Church of Philadelphia, 2125 Chestnut Street. Made of enamel mosaic glass and designed by John MacDonald, this three by two foot tablet is still on the interior of the Chestnut Street wall of the church sanctuary, to the far left of the 2 double doors from the front porch. The tablet section is bronze and reads:
"[A crown and cross]
Algernon Sydney Roberts
March 29, 1798-[maltese cross] Sept 14, 1865
Be faithful unto death and
I will give you a crown of life.
[maltese cross]
Elizabeth Cuthbert Roberts
Feb 22, 1802-[maltese cross]Dec 9, 1891
Her children arise and
call her blessed

(Photo courtesy of Anne Slater and of the First Unitarian Church of Philadelphia.)
"Originally, the church's interior was sparsely furnished, with clear-glass windows in geometric and floral patterns... . In 1889, the first Tiffany stained-glass window commissioned in Philadelphia was installed in the church. Over the next few decades, the remaining clear glass was replaced with more stained-glass windows... . Elaborate wall memorials appeared, including this beautiful mosaic honoring the family of Algernon Sydney Roberts, owner of the Pencoyd Iron Works and resident of the Physick-Roberts House on Walnut Street." (Robert Morris Skaler and Thomas H. Keels, Philadelphia's Rittenhouse Square, Arcadia Publishing, Charleston, SC, 2008, p. 55)

This work was in the style of the brilliant enamel mosaicist Antonio Salviati, whose gifts to the United States of enamel mosaic portraits of Abraham Lincoln and James A. Garfield, and his work in St. Paul's Cathedral, London were well known. (http://www.senate.gov/artandhistory/art/artifact/Other_39_00001.htm)

(Photo of Salviati's mosaics in St. Paul's Cathedral, London courtesy of Michael Padwee.)*

The paths of Charles Lamb and Charles Volkmar crossed in many venues in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Their respective art forms were used together on a number of projects in the New York area from Lamb's residence to the National Arts Club and beyond.

* As mentioned in the comment below, this is not one of Salviati's mosaics. In fact, as The Salviati Architectural Mosaic Database explains, "Some things to keep in mind regarding Salviati mosaics: Antonio Salviati was not a glassmaker himself. Trained as a lawyer, he used his keen business sense to seek out and partner with master glassmakers and mosaicists like Lorenzo Radi. Radi developed a revolutionary method for both making enamel mosaics and applying them. His process made more colorful and durable smalti, which was then pre-made in Venice, shipped to a site, and set in large sections rather than by individual tesserae. This made the work less expensive and much faster. The Salviati name has been used in various forms and iterations since the 1850s, but it is synonymous with quality glassware that was somehow associated with Antonio Salviati. Salviati’s firms manufactured mosaic scenes based on cartoons by their in-house designers; copies of existing works (either paintings, frescoes or mosaics); or new designs specifically created by contemporary artists such as Edward Burne-Jones, by architects like G.G. Scott, and by commissions from other craftsmen such as their competitors in the mosaic field Clayton and Bell." (http://salviatimosaics.blogspot.com/p/contact-and-submissions.html


I would like to thank the following people for their help with this article: Joe Taylor, Sheila Menzies and Brechelle Ware of the Tile Heritage Foundation; Jonathan P. Elgen; Anne Slater, a member of the First Unitarian Church of Philadelphia; Peter Roan; Christopher Nunnally, General Manager, and Bob Mueller, Archivist, of the Salmagundi Club; Mrs. Barrie Tait Collins; and the very helpful staff of the Cresskill, New Jersey Public Library.

Tile Heritage Foundation

Jonathan P. Ellgen

The First Unitarian Church of Philadelphia

Peter Roan

The Cresskill, NJ Public Library

The Municipal Archives of New York

The National Arts Club

The Salmagundi Club