AMERICAN ENCAUSTIC TILING COMPANY SHOWROOMS AND BUILDING FACADE--MANHATTAN, NY
Title of Installation:
American Encaustic Tiling Company (AETCo) showrooms and building facade
Ceramic faience tiles
In an illustrated article, "The Display Rooms of a Tile Manufactory", Leon V. Solon, the artistic director of the American Encaustic Tiling Company, describes the showrooms:
"The entrance corridor is treated with studied simplicity: a dark Delft blue covers the floor, extending a short distance up the walls...terminating in a rope molding. Two...panels by Arthur Crisp are hung on rough stucco walls. ...[The Reception room] walls are covered with 3x3 inch tiles embossed with a simple Greek fret...colored alternately with red, black, and gold...set at random... . The floor is of large blue-green tiles... . One of the Parthenon metopes, reproduced in faience, is inserted in the wall over the telephone operator's desk. ...The grilles are of faience treated with a vermillion glaze. ...The visitor leaves the reception room through a little vaulted corridor, paved with Tuscan red faience tiles laid at random;...a recess...is decorated with American-Persian tiles... . ...The stylistic treatment [of the main display room] is that of the Italian Renaissance... ."*
In another article, " 'This Extraordinary Demand For Color': Leon Victor Solon and Architectural Polychromy, 1909-1939", Regina Lee Blaszczyk states, "...Solon designed the American Encaustic offices as a virtual 'Tile Museum', as a showplace for parading the decorative potential of colorful architectural ceramics. ...If the exterior of the...showroom [the building facade] was the epitome of understatement, the building's interior communicated chromatic splendor that must have bedazzled architects and persuaded many to utilize tiles in their installations. ...This main display area, a virtual symphony in distinctive hues of brilliant blues, greens and gold, was Solon's tribute to maiolica potters of the Italian Renaissance. Here, under the watchful gaze of a pair of black lions, probably modeled after the Greek Nemean Lion, Solon negotiated...contracts."**
Leon Solon's AETCo art department in New York designed the facade and showrooms using a planned glaze color scheme, which is explained in his article. The street entrance and facade were decorated with polychrome faience, including a bear's head over the entrance.
"In 1927, Solon lamented the 'dull and lifeless buildings of today' and called for increased use of color in skyscrapers. 'A soothing green would be suitable for localities like the Wall Street district where nerves are subject to constant excitement,' he wrote.
At 16 East 41st Street Solon found the opportunity to put such theories into practice. The interior was a polychromed labyrinth of tile art, with majolica fountains, faience radiator grilles, niches, cornices and even ceilings in intensely shaded red, blue, gold, green and other colors.
But for the exterior Solon sought a more subdued, neutral character. On a wall of light yellow roughened stucco, he laid out a polychrome network -- deep, burnt umber door and window enframements on the first floor, brilliant blue and gold heraldic plaques at the midsection and cream-and-blue rectangular patterns of square tile at the attic story.
...A company brochure of about 1930 shows that American Encaustic later tiled the ground-floor stuccoed facade with a wildly mottled pattern of small rectangular tiles."******
According to Blaszczyk, "Sometime during the 1920s, Solon remodeled his office, on the first floor facing the street, to create another...showcase illustrating the adaptability of American Encaustic tiles to modernistic interiors. Included in this area...were Solon's interpretations of Augustin Lazo's costumes designed for the Carlos Chavez Aztec Ballet which debuted in...1928."**
Technical Information (Size,mfg., etc.):
Polychromed AETCo architectural faience tiles were used throughout the interior and on the exterior of the building.
Year Installed, if different:
Does Installation Still Exist?
If Not, What Happened?
Although preservationists tried to have the building landmarked in 1993, this failed. It is believed that most, if not all of the tiled interior of the building has been demolished. Part of the exterior faience has also been destroyed by new tenants/landlords over the years. A restaurant now occupies the first floor of the building, and the two window bays to the left of the entrance have been destroyed.
In April 2013 the current owner of the building began, yet, another facade "uplift". In the process the tiles on the facade were destroyed (see below).
New York (Manhattan)
Location of Installation:
16 East 41st Street
Directions to Installation:
Additional Information, Websites, Citations:
*Leon Solon's article, "The Display Rooms of a Tile Manufactory", is available on the internet: http://tileresearcharticles.omeka.net/items/show/1 (Scroll down to, and click on the pdf "file")
Additional articles about AETCo or written by Leon Solon can be accessed at http://archrecord.construction.com/inTheCause/onTheState/default.asp and http://tileresearcharticles.omeka.net/items/show/14. (Scroll down to, and click on the pdf "file")
**Regina Lee Blaszczyk, " 'This Extraordinary Demand For Color': Leon Victor Solon and Architectural Polychromy, 1909-1939" in Flashpoint, the Newsletter of the Tile Heritage Foundation, Vol. 6, No. 3, July-September 1993, p. 14. (Although not generally available, you might be able to obtain a copy of this interesting article plus the Flashpoint's centerpiece showroom illustrations from the Tile Heritage Foundation.
***Photos courtesy of the Tile Heritage Foundation (http://tileheritage.org/).
****E. Stanley Wires, "Decorative Tiles, Part III, Their Contribution to Architecture and Ceramic Art", New England Architect and Builder Illustrated, No. Sixteen, 1960.
*****"Architectural Detail Part XI" by John Vredenburgh Van Pelt in Pencil Points, Vol. III, No. 3, March 1922,
p. 17.******Christopher Gray, "Terra Cotta Magic With a Polychromed Interior" in the New York Times' "Streetscapes" column dated July 20, 1997. (http://www.nytimes.com/1997/07/20/realestate/terra-cotta-magic-with-a-polychromed-interior.html?src=pm)
My blog post about this building can be accessed at: http://tilesinnewyork.blogspot.com/2012/06/american-encaustic-tiling-company-part.html
Submitted by and Year:
Submitted by Michael Padwee (tileback101"at"collector.org); January, 2011.
Photo courtesy of Michael Padwee (2010)
(Niche with Persian-style tiles***)
This is a magazine photo of an AET showroom in 1918, prior to the 1920's renovation. The faience plaque in the background was possibly designed by Leon Solon.
A 1922 photo of the original stucco and faience treatment of the facade prior to the later addition of tile.*****
The 34" high vase shown at the left was one of a pair of vases that was recently (2013) located and purchased by POTS in ACNJ.
(One of ten tiles made by AET Co. from designs by Mexican artist Augustin Lazo for the Aztec Ballet in 1928****)
The final destruction of the AET Building facade, April 2013.
These will probably be gone soon, also.