My Big Learning Curve About Historic Tile. Part 1.
When the Cross House was built in 1894, it featured tile floors in three vestibules, two bathrooms, and also tiles around eight fireplaces. The previous owner of the house, Bob Rodak, found an invoice from the American Encaustic Tiling Company (AETCO). This was a way cool discovery.
Amazingly, all this tile is still there in 2015, albeit a bit battered.
A year ago I knew nothing about historic tiles. Today, I know a bit:
ENCAUSTIC TILES: Ceramic tiles in which the pattern or figure on the surface is not a product of the glaze but of different colors of clay. They are usually of two colors but a tile may be composed of as many as six. Such tiles are two or more colors (from Wikipedia).
PORCELAIN GEOMETRIC TILES: Such tiles are one solid color all the way through.
AMERICAN ENCAUSTIC TILING COMPANY: This is a fascinating page.
The American Encaustic Tiling Company, also called AETCO or AE (1875-to at least 1945), was one of the most distinguished American makers of household adornments, as well as one of the largest tile producers of modern times. AETCO’s wares found their way into countless American houses and public buildings. AETCO provided “artistic” tiles of a very high order of design and execution for innumerable front porches, vestibules, halls, and fireplaces while, at the same time, it helped to convince Americans of the merit of tiled bathrooms and kitchens.
Don’t you love the words household adornments?
Anyway, I know the tiling around my fireplaces is by AETCO. I had always assumed the tiling in the vestibules and bathrooms was also, and was called encaustic tiles. But I now know that such tile is properly called (at least I think) porcelain geometric tiles. I am uncertain if AETCO also produced these tiles.
For almost a year now I have had a daily email from an eBay Search for encaustic tile. I have looked at a lot of such tile, but have found none to match my needs. I did not think it would be so hard.
At this point, I am ready to begin on the restoration of the Marble Bath, and have to give up on ever finding replacement tiles.
Or so I thought until about an hour ago.
And my elation? Considerable.
First I found London Mosaic. Yes, across an ocean. But the company still makes what looks sorta like the tiling in my house.
The company also restores tile floors, and on their website they show before/after images. And my breath was taken away. Can my musty old damaged floors look like this?
I mean, my eyes bugged out.
All the while I have owned the Cross House I assumed I would have to scavenge old tiles from…somewhere (but where?), or cannibalize (eek!) my existing tiles by taking tiles from X location (like under a new cabinet) and move them to visible Y location. The latter is the course — until an hour ago — that I had decided upon.
But, it suddenly seemed possible that I might be able to fully restore my damaged floors rather than fudge them into an acceptable appearance.
This sudden awareness feels like the sun peeking out after months of dark, cloudy, gray skies.
Can you, too, feel the sunlight?
While getting all tingly about London Mosaic, I nonetheless thought: Is there someplace a bit closer to home?
Through the miracle which is the internet, with alacrity I discovered Olde English Tiles, USA. I liked the USA part. And where, I wondered, were they in the USA?
Golly, almost around the block. In Mabelvale, Arkansas, about a six-hour drive from the Cross House.
While the following two images are not as visually exciting as the above images, they really got my heart racing:
The shapes and sizes of the tiles, and the colors, should match my tiles. I think. I hope.
Well, this is an astonishing discovery.
However, it suddenly occurs to me that many other old house lovers must have been down this exact same path. Right? If so, I look forward, with great anticipation, to hearing your stories.
It is late, and I have some old lights to restore. So, until Part Two, I bid adieu!
Oh! You just have to watch the video here!
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