Wanna Meet My Hearths?

The 1894 Cross House has eight mantels. You can meet them here.

Each has a metal grate insert over the fire opening, with ‘surround’ tiles by the America Encaustic Tiling Company. And each has a tiled hearth, by same.

Mostly, the surround tiles are in pretty good shape. Mostly.

The hearth tiles range from kinda OK to alarming.




The tile pattern is…odd. Is it original? The outer front edge is concrete. Thus, I suspect that the hearth tiles have been altered. I do not plan to change this. For now.




The 3×6 front edge tiles are not original.


The field tiles are curious, a mix of 3×3 tiles, and thin tiles. I would like to have the damaged tiles replaced with accurate new tiles. And new 3×6 edge tiles.




The tiles are 3×3 with 3×6 edge tiles. Almost all are damaged, and look MUCH worse in person. Many of the edge tiles are poor replacements. I would like to remove all, and replace with matching new 3×3 and 3×6 tiles.


It would be vital to recreate the variegated tonal coloring and shine of the surround tiles.




The surround has my favorite tile in the house.


The hearth has, obviously, been almost entirely replaced. I would like to order all new 3×6 tiles to match the few remaining originals. The variegated finish would be vital.




The surround tiles are in good shape. Image from 2016.


The hearth tiles are kinda OK. I will leave them. For now.




The hearth tiles are kinda OK. I will leave them. For now.


One surround tile is missing. Can it be recreated? I will reset the upside-down one. I hope.




I would like to replace the cracked surround tile…


…and this badly cracked surround tile. Can the relief pattern, color, and crackle glaze all be recreated?


Only a few of the narrow field tiles need to be replaced, as well all this portion of the edge 3×6 tiles.




The hearth tiles are kinda OK. I will leave them. For now. The pattern is highly curious.


None of the tiles appear to have ever been grouted. The tiles fit tight together. This would be vital in ordering replacement tiles.

Carrie suggested I contact North Prairie Tileworks to see if they can authentically recreate new tiles. I called, and it seems like they can. I will forward this post to them.

I am excited. And scared.





  1. Scott on April 1, 2023 at 11:06 pm

    Those non-matching tiles from the sewing room hearth seem to match the missing tiles from the parlor hearth.

    • Ross on April 1, 2023 at 11:10 pm

      Egads, Scott! I think you’re right!

    • mlaiuppa on April 2, 2023 at 2:54 am

      Hard to tell on my screen but they don’t look like they are the same exact shade of brown. Ross would know better seeing them in person.

  2. Bill F. on April 1, 2023 at 11:48 pm

    Looks like your tiles are worth quite a bit. https://www.goantiques.com/american-encaustic-fireplace-2396809

    • mlaiuppa on April 2, 2023 at 3:03 am

      Well, now Ross can search the web for American Encaustic fireplace tiles and see if there are any out there that can match the missing or damaged designs.

      I think in the end the reproductions will be more cost effective. But man, are those originals beautiful.

  3. Scott on April 2, 2023 at 12:13 am

    And is it possible that those brown tiles along the front edge of the parlor hearth go to the dining room hearth?

    • Ross on April 2, 2023 at 12:19 am

      Scott, I think you mean the library hearth (not dining room hearth).

      And…egads!…you might be right!

      • Scott on April 2, 2023 at 12:25 am

        Library. Yes, that’s what I meant. My wires got crossed.

    • SEB on April 2, 2023 at 9:08 am

      Following Scott’s lead: could the two tone yellowish one in the library hearth belong to the dining room hearth?

  4. mlaiuppa on April 2, 2023 at 2:53 am

    Having the tiles recreated will be pricey. But you know what? This might be the one place in the house to splurge to really get it right. The hearths are the jewels in each room. They are a focal point. Get it right and it won’t be noticed except for them being a spotlight of beauty in each room. Get it wrong and your eye will be drawn to them every time you enter the room and you will eventually grow to hate the offense to the eye.

    I know you are going to get it right because you have a great eye.

    Just take your time. One at a time.

    In this case I think it would be better to try to duplicate as closely as possible the original design and intent of the house. That will be expensive but if you do one at a time spaced out, eventually they’ll all get done and you will love the result.

    I envy you those beautiful fireplaces and so many. I wanted a house with a fireplace but had to settle for one without. No place to put one, not even a small pellet stove or something. Not even one of those offensive electric abominations you hang on the wall with fake fire.

    My parents have a very large corner fireplace my Dad built. But it is nothing like yours. Feather River travertine all the way up to the ceiling and along the front of the wide hearth with plain black slate on top. That’s it. Nothing to really go wow about. But I remember my Dad building it and there is one large piece of fools gold encrusted stone in it from a trip we took and collected. At first they thought it was a mistake after doing it but I think now they have grown to love that one odd rock that reminds them of a past vacation. It’s family history.

    I do love all of those tiles. I think my favorite fireplace is the “round” one because I love the color of those blue tiles.

  5. Laurie L Weber on April 2, 2023 at 7:59 am

    Wow! I never really thought of all the fireplaces but wow! What a journey you’ll have and I’m excited you’ll take us all with you!

  6. Matt on April 5, 2023 at 3:08 pm

    It’s nice to see someone else go through the process of trying to replace and match tiles!

    Of our four fireplaces, two of the mantles had been replaced. Some of the surround tiles for one were boxed in the attic (several missing I suspect broken when removed). The others were just gone. I did as you are, and found coordinating tiles to blend in and make borders for the hearths. Our dining room was the challenge and we got creative using three different tiles to create a pattern that has gained us many compliments.

    For the two replaced mantles, I got EXTREMELY lucky and found two tiger oak mantles that matched the two original mantles left in the house. A house across town was replacing them in their “renovation” for their daughter who thought they were “too old fashioned looking”. $400 for both, in pristine condition and one had the overmantel mirror with a date stamp of 1904 (which is perfect for our 1870 home, as it was “updated” at the turn of the century with fancier mantles and trim.

    I am loving following your work on the Cross house!

  7. Karen Spencer on April 6, 2023 at 9:40 pm

    Wow! Wow! Wow! Such beautiful detail!

    I truly love the ribbon motifs in the Library and sewing room. The tiles design are all so interesting, especially in the Long Bedroom.

    So much visual pleasure!

    Thank you Ross!

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