Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Ye Olde Tile

I wrote yesterday about how eclectic the original hearth tiles were. Although they were beat to hell when I bought the house, I saved as much as I could. I probably won’t be able to reuse them, but I couldn’t bring myself to throw them away.

About 30% of the tiles were just gone and the cavities had been filled in cement. What was left was scratched and cracked. The hearth tiles were an odd contrast to the surround tiles, because the surround tiles on both fireplaces were in fantastic shape and the hearth tiles were almost a complete loss. I can’t really say why.

Above is one of everything from the dining room. As you can see there were 13 different sizes and colors of tile. The bright green tile with the ribbon and floral pattern, along with the 2 narrow maroon bars, made up the outside boarder.

There were 2 portrait tiles per hearth. That is the only one left intact and it is in really rough shape. They sat in the middle of the design at an angle. Each hearth had a man and a woman that faced each other. The larger triangle tiles were situated around the portrait tiles to create a rectangle that was parallel with the firebox.

The pale tile with the rosette, just above the portrait tile, was in-line with the portrait tiles and placed in a similar fashion: at and angle with triangles around. That made up most of the middle of the design.

There were 4 of the green pattern tiles with the floral swirl that were situated at the top and bottom and off-set from the portrait tiles. The other square and triangle tiles filled in the rest of the space. Like I said, it was a very unique and creative pattern.

Many of the tiles are marked Cambridge on the back. I found the same marking on the back of one of the surround tiles. It was loose, so I removed it and reaffixed it when I put in the cast iron fireplace cover a few years back. Below is a blurb about the Cambridge Art Tile Works Company from a web site called Recycling The Past.

Cambridge Art Tile Works 1886-1985
J.J.Busse, and his sons, John, Herman, Louis, and J. Henry, and another man named Herman Binz began making tiles in J.J. Busse’s Brickyard in Kentucky. This was named the Mount Casino Art Tile and Enameled Brick Company. They established a second company, Cambridge Art Tile Works in 1887. Two years later, these two companies combined to create Cambridge Tile Manufacturing Company. Two men named Ferdinand Mersman and Clement J. Barnhorn joined Cambridge. Cambridge Tile took over the Wheatley Pottery in 1927, and they renamed it the Wheatley Tile and Pottery Company. Still in 1927, a company called Cambridge Wheatley Company was created, which sold both types of tile. Cambridge Wheatley stopped production in 1936, and Cambridge Tile Manufacturing Company kept its name. Cambridge continued to make tiles until 1985, when they closed.


Jayne said...

What a shame that the original tile was in such bad condition. Like you, I wonder why. Coal scuttles scraping across it, maybe? That portrait tile is gorgeous. Maybe you could put them in some sort of frame or shadow box and display them.

Marilyn said...

One of my hearths has the tile intact (but cracked from excessive heat) and the other, just what was under the bottom of the mantelpiece is left. I think the owners allowed their children to bang it up with hammers or whatever, because I dug up a piece of a tile outside once.
My designs were simple--just the 1.5 x 6 tiles matching the surround in a running bond in the middle with an inner border of sculptured daisy and leaf tiles in the same color and an outer band of shiny black--all the same size tiles.
If all else fails, try a border of shiny black 1.5 x 6 if you can find them.

Greg said...

Yea, I think the damage is from the heat and abuse. I wonder if maybe coal was used in the house longer than in other houses. I've seen some hearth tiles in homes that are in great shape.

NV said...

Those are awesome! you have to do something with at least a few of them. Bless you for salvaging them.