Thursday, May 1, 2014


Cincinnati, Ohio was the home of many pottery and tile companies in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. These included the Matt Morgan Pottery, the Wheatley Pottery and, later, the Wheatley-Cambridge Tile Company, Strobl Pottery and, of course, the recently revived Rookwood Pottery, among many others. Until this year I had never been to Cincinnati, but the American Art Pottery Association decided to hold its annual convention there, and we decided to attend. Cincinnati was home to a great deal of architectural ceramic installations, many of which still exist--and some, as we shall see, that are long gone. Although we did not have time to see many of Cincinnati’s ceramic installations, we did visit a few of them.

Cincinnati was founded in 1788 on the Ohio River as Losantville. It was renamed in 1790 after the Roman general, Cincinnatus. Cincinnati has a long history of “firsts”: “Cincinnati was the site of many historical beginnings. In 1850 it was the first city in the United States to establish a Jewish Hospital. It is where America's first municipal fire department, the Cincinnati Fire Department, was established in 1853. Established in 1867, the Cincinnati Red Stockings (a.k.a. the Cincinnati Reds) became the world's first professional (all paid, no amateurs) baseball team in 1869. In 1935, major league baseball's first night game was played at Crosley Field. Cincinnati was the first municipality to build and own a major railroad in 1880. In 1902, the world's first re-inforced concrete skyscraper was built, the Ingalls Building.” ( 

“The Ohio River provided Cincinnati residents with numerous business opportunities. Hotels, restaurants, and taverns quickly opened to meet the needs of settlers traveling westward on the Ohio River. Steamboats were manufactured and repaired in the city. Farmers brought their crops to the city to send down the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers to New Orleans, Louisiana, one of Ohio's major markets. The Miami and Erie Canal made the trip from western Ohio to Cincinnati much easier and less expensive for local farmers. In the early 1800s, Cincinnati developed into an important meatpacking center. Farmers brought their livestock to the city, where it was slaughtered, processed, and sold to western settlers or shipped to various markets. Beginning in the 1830s, ethnic Germans began to settle in Cincinnati. During this time period, Cincinnati was becoming the pork-processing center of the United States. ...By the late 1880s, Cincinnati was the largest city in Ohio, with almost 300,000 people. ...By 1890, Cincinnati had become an important industrial, political, literary, and educational center in both Ohio and the United States. During the twentieth century, Cincinnati has experienced continued growth both culturally and economically. The city's population has remained relatively constant since the 1880s with its population in 2000 at 365,000 people [...and] more than 1.8 million people live in surrounding communities... .” (,_Ohio?rec=681 

In the two historical articles about Cincinnati cited above there was no mention of the ceramics industry. This was probably just an unintentional oversight, because, on Mt. Adams, one of the seven hills that make up the city of Cincinnati, sits the old Rookwood Pottery. From the 1880s through the 1930s Rookwood art tile and pottery and faience, with Rookwood’s spectacular range of glazes, decorated the interiors and exteriors of thousands of buildings throughout the United States.

Teacups and saucers (1875) by M. Louise McLaughlin and Maria Longworth Nichols Storer. (Photo of objects in the collection of the Cincinnati Art Museum taken by Michael Padwee)  In 1877 McLaughlin wrote what is considered the handbook for American china painters, China Painting: A Practical Manual for the Use of Amateurs in the Decoration of Hard Porcelain.

Rookwood Pottery was founded by Maria Longworth Storer, one of a number of Cincinnati women who participated in china painting in the mid-1870s. The Cincinnati china painters went to the Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia in 1876 and exhibited their over-glaze-decorated wares. When they returned, they began to experiment with “other processes of decoration under the glaze; went farther into a study of the [clay] body; tested all sorts of native clays, ...and learned some of their possibilities. One important line of experiment, in 1877 and 1878, was in the application of color to the wet clay body. The color, diluted with slip,--clay thinned with water,--was applied with paintbrushes as a decoration on the raw clay vase. The idea was to produce a new pottery of our native clays, by applying color decoration in the material itself before firing, to make the body and decoration a homogeneous mass in the first firing, and then to protect and enrich the biscuit with a glaze.” (Rookwood, published by the Rookwood Pottery, Cincinnati, Ohio, c. 1900, pp. 11, 12, 14) 

(Photo courtesy of

Mrs. Storer had the financial resources and family backing and opened her own pottery in 1880. By 1889 Rookwood was self-supporting and Mrs. Storer withdrew her aid. The pottery, which had moved to its Mt. Adams home, was then transferred to William W. Taylor, who had worked with Mrs. Storer since 1883. Rookwood hired most of its artists who were locally trained in the Art Academy of Cincinnati, and the Pottery “is managed on lines opposite to the prevailing factory system, as the effort is to attain a higher art, rather than cheaper processes. Absolutely no printing patterns are used. A spirit of freedom and liberality has prevailed, in order that the decorators encouraged to cultivate individual artistic feeling.” (Ibid., pp. 14-17) 

William Watts Taylor. (“Obituary”, The Clay-Worker, Vol. LX, No. 6, December 1913, p. 641)

William Watts Taylor, known as the “Master of Rookwood”, worked at Rookwood from 1883 until his death in 1913. By the terms of his will Taylor left his estate to be used to further the work of the Pottery, and to educate the workers of the Pottery. Under Taylor Rookwood prospered financially and artistically. Many new forms and glaze lines were developed during the first five decades at Rookwood: “Tiger Eye”--a glaze that rarely formed, and only by accident, in the kiln; “Iris” and “Black Iris”; “Sea Green”; matte glazes, and others. (For a full discussion of Rookwood’s glaze lines, see: Anita J. Ellis, Rookwood Pottery: The Glaze Lines, Schiffer Publishing, Ltd., Atglen, PA, 1995)

Some of the Rookwood Glaze Lines 

Maria Longworth Storer’s “Aladdin Vase” (1882). Under-glaze, painted decoration. (All Rookwood pottery in the collection of the Cincinnati Art Museum photographed in April 2014 by Michael Padwee unless otherwise noted.)

Vase (1883) “Proto-Black Iris” glaze line, decorated by Alfred Laurens Brennan (1853-1921).

Vase (1886) with “Dull Finish” glaze, decorated by Laura Anne Fry (1857-1943).

Bottle Vase (1884), “Mahogany” glaze line, decorated by Harriet Wenderoth (d. 1954).

Plaque: “A Trinity of Dragons--Earth, Fire and Water” (c. 1892), “Standard” glaze line, decorated by Kitaro Shirayamadani (1865-1948). "Kataro (Sherry) Shirayamadani...was born in 1865.  He started decorating pottery at Rookwood in 1887 and except for a couple of short periods of time, worked at the pottery until near his death in 1948." (

Tile (1894), “Ariel Blue” glaze line, decoration attr. to Sarah Sax (1870-1949). "Ms. Sax joined the decorating staff at Rookwood Pottery in 1896 and worked there until 1931.  Peacocks and peacock feathers were common decorating motifs for Rookwood vases decorated by Sara Sax.  Ms. Sax’s French Red vases are [also] absolutely exceptional… ." (

Vase (1899): “Lone Elk, Sioux”, “Standard” glaze line, decorated by Matthew Andrew Daly (1860-1937).

Vase (1898), Standard glaze line with copper electrodeposit, Kitaro Shirayamadani, decorator.

Vase (1897), “Sea Green” glaze line, Artus Van Briggle (1869-1904), decorator. Van Briggle worked at Rookwood before contracting tuberculosis, moving to Colorado Springs, Colorado and founding the Van Briggle Pottery with his wife, Anna.

Lamp and Lamp Vase (1906-07), “Iris” glaze line, decorated by Carl Schmidt (1875-1959). "Carl Schmidt was born in 1875 and began decorating vases at Rookwood in 1896.  He worked at Rookwood Pottery until 1927.  Mr. Schmidt’s Venice harbor scenic vases and iris glaze vases are exceptional and have a lifelike presence that is unparalleled in American art pottery history. Pict1141 Typical motifs for Rookwood Iris glaze vases by Carl Schmidt include wisteria, iris, and tulip flowers." (

Vase (1900), “Modeled Mat” glaze line, Anna Marie Valentien (1862-1947), decorator.

Vase (1917), “Vellum” glaze line, Edward Timothy Hurley (1869-1950), decorator.

Rookwood “Vellum” glaze plaque. (Humler & Nolan Auction Gallery, Cincinnati, Ohio)

”Winter”, one of “Four Seasons” architectural faience murals (1907) made for the Grand Cafe of the Hotel Sinton (Cincinnati-demolished). Modeled by John D Wareham (1871-1974). 

”Fountain of the Water Nymph” (1913), created in architectural faience by sculptor Clement J. Barnhorn (1857- 1935). Barnhorn created other sculptural works in architectural faience for Rookwood which were installed in the Lord and Taylor stores in Cincinnati and Manhattan, the Prince George Hotel in Manhattan, the Kauffmann-Bauer Fountain in Pittsburgh, the Holmes Fountain in Cincinnati, and a lunette for the Sailors’ Institute in New York, among others. (Ernest Bruce Haswell, “Clement J. Barnhorn”, The International Studio, Vol. LV, No. 217, March 1915, p. XLVI)  This fountain was part of the Rookwood showroom from 1913 until 1967, when Rookwood closed its doors in Cincinnati. In 1992 it was found by Anita J. Ellis  of the Cincinnati Art Museum in an antiques store, and it was purchased by the Museum. (John Johnston, “Rich in history, artwork finds home”, The Cincinnati Enquirer, Friday, May 16, 2003;

”Angels” (c. 1920), architectural faience, Louise Abel (1894-c.1980), sculptor. These angels were originally installed in the Seventh Presbyterian Church in Cincinnati.

According to decorative arts historian Richard Mohr, Rookwood introduced its new faience tile products at the St. Louis World’s Exposition in 1904.* Faience is different from terra cotta, which was also beginning to be used extensively in architectural construction, in that terra cotta was only fired once in a kiln--the coloring was added to the clay before the clay was biscuit fired--while faience was fired at least twice--once for the biscuit firing and second after the glazing.

* [In a privately circulated “Corrections and Extentions” to Mohr's “Rookwood Faience Tiles” in the Journal of the American Art Pottery Association, 26: 1-3 (2010), Mohr comments that "the first public display of Rookwood faience tiles was laid out as part of a huge ‘Clay Industries Exhibit’ mounted by the National Brick Manufacturers Association within the Palace of Mines and Metallurgy.”]

Architectural Ceramics

(Color photos taken by Michael Padwee unless otherwise noted)
The Netherland Plaza Hotel and Carew Tower Complex

The Netherland Plaza and Carew Tower complex was begun in 1930 and opened in 1931. Designed by Walter W. Ahlschlager, it was built by the Starrett Bros., Inc. construction company of New York, which also built the Empire State Building. The complex was built to be a “city within a city”, with shops, department stores, offices and the hotel. (“Walking Tour & Pocket History: Netherland Plaza”, undated pamphlet, p. 1) 

The entrances on Fifth and Race Streets have metal, Art-Deco, porte-cocheres friezes.

The Grand staircase is guarded by brass Art Deco torcheres.

Stairway to the lobby and The Palm Court restaurant.

One of two faience ceramic urns on the stairway to the lobby from the Fifth Street entrance. Each urn is 3+ feet tall and 2 1/2 feet wide. They may have floral and geometric designs reminiscent of Rookwood decorator William Ernst Hentschel (1892-1962). (Nick and Marilyn Nicholson, “Rookwood Architectural Faience: Installations in the Hilton Cincinnati Netherland Plaza”, The Journal of the American Art Pottery Association, Vol. 19, No. 6, Nov/Dec 2003, p. 13)

As you climb the staircase, the new lobby is to the left. To the right is the Palm Court restaurant, which was the original lobby in 1931.

“This great room is predominantly French Art Deco with classic Louis XV overtones exemplified in the high murals which illustrate the theme of recreation.” (“Walking Tour & Pocket History: Netherland Plaza”, undated pamphlet, p. 5)

“[...At] the back wall of what is now a functioning, remarkably well preserved 18-foot-tall Rookwood faience fountain. The top of the fountain is a brown semi-gloss ram’s head. ...The basin is embossed with the same floral and geometric design as is seen in the [Carew Tower,] Hentschel-designed, [Rookwood faience] arches. The faience portion of the fountain is encased in marble on both sides and at the base.” (Nick and Marilyn Nicholson, p. 13)

On both sides of the steps leading to the fountain at the back wall of the Palm Court is a figural lamp. “The faience portions of these lamps consist of large kneeling horses with webbed feet. They are the same brown color and semi-gloss glaze as the ram’s head atop the fountain and are very large by faience standards--56 inches tall, 51 inches wide and 28 inches deep. At the very top of each horse’s head rests a faience lamp base embossed with...Hentschel’s floral and geometric design... .” (Ibid., p. 13)

The ram and seahorses, here, and dolphins and mermaids seen elsewhere, all represent protection and guardianship for travelers. “A variety of Art Deco images and forms have been adopted not so much for their symbolic value as for their visual effect and dramatic impact. George Unger, who is credited with most of the interior design, was an accomplished theatre designer during the 1920s and 1930s.” (“Walking Tour & Pocket History: Netherland Plaza”, undated pamphlet, p. 6.) 

On the ground level of the complex is the arcade that connects the hotel to the Carew Tower shops. The arcade has arches on each end that are faced with Rookwod faience tiles. “Each arch is approximately 35 feet high, 26 feet wide across the top, with each leg of the arch 4 feet in width. 

Tiles are brightly colored and arranged in a complex floral and geometric design. ...this design recurs in many other parts of the hotel complex--ceiling trim, wall decoration and around support beams to name a few.” It is thought that William Hentschel designed these because they are stylistically similar to his work in the tearoom of the Union Terminal and a frieze around the entrance to Cincinnati’s Dixie Terminal. (Nick and Marilyn Nicholson, p. 12) 

“William Ernst Hentschel was born in New York on June 16, 1892.  He studied art at the Art Students League, Columbia University, University of Kentucky (degree) and the Cincinnati Art Academy.  In 1913 Hentschel was hired as a designer at Rookwood Pottery where he worked until 1932 and produced over 4000 designs. In 1921 he also began teaching at the Cincinnati Art Academy until his retirement in 1957.  In early 1928 he developed a printmaking method that involved using an airbrush with multiple stencils. In 1953 Hentschel developed another innovative technique, again using stencils, but this time utilizing gelatin brayers of different sizes and softness, printing with oil-base ink (rubber rollers with water-base inks).” (

59 (or 61) West 4th Street

There was no address on this building; it had been absorbed into the McAlpin (an ex-Department Store) Condo complex at 15 West 4th Street. Decorative arts historian Richard Mohr suggested I take a look at the bands of ceramic tiles on each side of the bay windows on this building as he had a tile that closely resembled them. Richard’s tile was made by the Alhambra Tile Company of Newport, Kentucky, about 20 miles from Cincinnati.

Detail view of the tiles.

"The Alhambra Tile Company…made high line moulded, six and four inch faience tiles glazed in soft hued colors. Some tiles were marketed as Araby Tile and Plastic Faience Decorated Tile. …Otto Wolf and John F. Sheehy…formed the Alhambra Tile Company in 1901. …Due to the war-time lack of manpower and supplies, the plant closed in 1941. " (Norman Karlson, The Encyclopedia of American Art Tiles, Region 4, Schiffer Publishing, Ltd., Atglen, PA, 2005, p. 13)

Richard Mohr’s 6” Alhambra tile. (Courtesy of Richard Mohr)

The Alhambra Tile Co. mark, an “A” with a scimtar as the crossbar and a star at the right, outside the "A".

After taking photos of this building, I turned around and saw a colored building facade. I walked across the street, to 10-12 West 4th Street, and was stunned by the polychrome Rookwood faience above the entrance to a TJ Maxx. I later was told that it was once the Gidding Building, a high-end apparel company.

The Gidding Building

“This building, which was built in 1883, once was the home of the J.M. Gidding & Co. which was an exclusive clothing retailer.

A 1909 Rookwood ad for its faience products. (The Architectural Record, Vol. XXVI, No. 6, Dec. 1909, p. 13)

In 1962, Gidding merged with their next door neighbor, Jenny Co[mpany], making the company Gidding-Jenny. In 1995, Gidding-Jenny closed its doors. What is unique about the former Gidding building is the very ornate Rookwood Tile which surrounds the entrance. The tile has fruit, flower, and faces on the designs and is very colorful and you really need to see it up close and in person to really appreciate the detail. The tile décor started to deteriorate but fortunately was saved when a major restoration effort was performed in 2003. The building is now part of the TJ Maxx downtown.” (

This fireplace was created by John D. Wareham (1871-1954) for the home of Mrs. Christian R. (Betty Fleischmann) Holmes at 3598 Washington Avenue, Cincinnati in 1903. (Photo taken at the Cincinnati Museum of Art, April 2014, by Michael Padwee)

According to Richard Mohr, the Rookwood polychrome faience facade decoration was added to this 1883 building in about 1907. The faience fruit-motif looks the same as the faience fruit-motif around a Rookwood fireplace in the Cincinnati Art Museum, which was designed by John D. Wareham, a modeler at Rookwood.

Faience fruit on the Gidding Building facade.

It is very possible that Wareham was also responsible for this facade.

Union Terminal and the Rookwood Tea Room

“Union Terminal opened in March of 1933, [...and it was described] as a ‘Temple to Transportation’ by the local and national press... . It was nearly a city within a city. The main concourse offered shops for everything: A bookstore, toy store, men’s store, women’s clothing store, food service, newsstands, and even an air-conditioned movie theater. Large lounges with large connecting restrooms were available for men and women, along with a boot black and barber shop. There were even bathtubs available in the restrooms for passengers on long trips.” ( 

Roland A. Wank of Fellheimer and Wagner served as the principal architect on Union Terminal with Paul Philippe Cret. ( 


“The massive 180 foot wide and 106 foot tall rotunda, today the second largest half dome in the world (after the Sidney Opera House), is the primary space. When the building opened in 1933, it connected to another important space, the train concourse, a 450 foot long structure that sat over the tracks below. Here 16 train gates connected to the platforms where passengers and baggage would be loaded or unloaded from the train.” (

The two bas reliefs flanking the rotunda were carved by Maxfield Keck and his team in 1932. Once the limestone of the exterior was in place, Keck had scaffolding erected and he carved the murals over a period of several months. Once complete, the murals represented transportation and commerce.” (The Glass Storybook and the Great Menagerie: The Art of Winold Reiss and Pierre Bourdelle”;

“When [architects] Paul Cret and Roland Wank reworked the original Union Terminal design, they created space inside the terminal for a vast collection of public art. The biggest set of these spaces was set aside for a series of murals that would depict the cultural heritage of the United States and Cincinnati, with a particular emphasis on local industry.

A combination of three photos that shows the two main murals in Union Terminal.

“The artist selected for the large mural project was Winold Reiss. ...Reiss had particularly made a name for himself by painting Native Americans in the American West and through his portrait work in Harlem. The murals themselves were executed in glass mosaic tile. This format would provide exceptionally vivid colors that would not fade with age or be difficult to maintain... . Reiss would work with the Ravenna Tile Company of New York to create the magnificent murals for the new terminal. Reiss's chief responsibility in the project was the creation of the one-third scale cartoons, which Ravenna would use as a reference to create the full scale mosaic tile murals.” Ibid.) 

South wall mural--”The Development of America”

“For the two massive rotunda murals, Reiss created two timelines; one, of the history of the United States, from the Native Americans to the ‘modern’ citizen and one of Cincinnati, from settlement to the ‘modern’ period.

North wall mural--”The Development of Cincinnati”

A one-third scale painting, or cartoon, of the south-east rotunda mosaics. This was painted by Reiss as a guide for Ravenna Tile when they created the mosaics. (Photo by Nicholas Massa for the Cincinnati History Museum;

Reiss’ cartoon of the map mural. (Photo by Nicholas Massa)

“The mosaics were created from blow-ups of Reiss's one-third scale cartoons, which when finished were shipped to the studio. Here workers would grid out the images and begin matching tiles, or tessera, to the colors found in Reiss’ original. Many of these pieces were roughly the size of a nickel and were positioned and trimmed individually to achieve the desired appearance. The murals are silhouette mosaics, which mean the main elements of the murals are fully done in tesserae, but that the backgrounds are colored plaster.” (Ibid.) 

Reiss created “14 smaller murals for the train concourse representing local industries and the large world map mural located at the rear of the concourse. The murals located in the train concourse were removed when the concourse building was demolished in the 1970s. The murals removed from the train concourse were then placed on display at the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport... .” ( Some of Cincinnati’s specific industries depicted in these murals were Baldwin Piano, Procter & Gamble and U.S. Playing Cards. These murals can be seen today at the airport’s Terminals One, Two and Three. (

Two murals in the rear hallway.

Bourdelle’s carved linoleum wall murals.

”The artist who received the contract for the art in the public rooms was a Frenchman named Pierre Bourdelle. Bourdelle was asked to decorate the ceilings in the private dining rooms, the formal dining room and the hall that lead to it, the paintings that hung along the top of the wall in the cafeteria, hand cut linoleum designs for the women’s restroom vestibule by the dining rooms, the panels for the women’s lounge (along with its hand cut wall paper) and the newsreel theater. ...Unlike Reiss's work, Bourdelle’s would dwell in fantasy, conjuring up jungle scenes, mermaids, and fanciful flowers. The colors of these murals would be vivid and in some cases, the materials exotic. The ceiling murals were painted oil-on-canvas, using bright colors... . For the Women’s Lounge, Dining Room Alcove, and Newsreel Theater, Bourdelle created something truly unique. Using linoleum, Bourdelle carved wall murals which depicted mermaids for the Newsreel Theater, a jungle scene for the Alcove, and various flora in the Women’s Lounge.” (Ibid.) 

“Another feature of the facility is the Rookwood Tea Room, today the Rookwood Ice Cream Parlor. Designed by well known Rookwood artist William E. Hentschel, the design was one of the last architectural tile installations the company would do before declaring bankruptcy.” (Ibid.)  (As mentioned above, Hentschel is also thought to have designed much of the faience decoration in the Netherland Plaza/Carew Tower complex.)

“The room features floor-to-ceiling tile in a mint green, pale gray, and mauve color scheme.

“The design features dragonflies and flowers and partitioned seating. The room originally provided tea, coffee and light refreshments. During World War II, the room served as the primary space of the USO Troops-in-Transit Lounge that was here. ...Since Union Terminal has been home to Cincinnati Museum Center, the room has been used as an ice cream parlor.” (Ibid.) 

This and the next two photos courtesy of Richard Mohr.

These are by no means the only architectural ceramic installations still existing in Cincinnati. However, there are also some that have been documented, but no longer exist, such as the Hotel Sinton Rookwood installations, the Lord and Taylor flower shop fountain, the Mills Restaurant murals, and the Wheatley Pottery and Tile Showroom, among others.

(Picture post card courtesy of

Hotel Sinton

In 1903 Pike’s Theatre, on the SE corner of 4th and Vine Streets, was destroyed by a fire. In 1905 plans were made for the construction of a new hotel. The Sinton Hotel was completed in 1907 just one day shy of the fourth anniversary of the fire that destroyed the Pike's Building. The Cincinnati Enquirer described one of the hotel’s features: “A cafe of unsurpassed grandeur, finished in rare marbles and Rookwood pottery panels, with a great spreading dome above, rising 55 feet above the marble floor, is to be the great feature of the new Sinton Hotel.” (“Cafe Of Marble and Pottery Will be Chief Feature of Sinton Hotel “, Cincinnati Enquirer; Aug 22, 1905; p. 5) In 1964 plans were made for the Sinton to be torn down and replaced with an office tower. The hotel had closed its doors due to financial problems and outstanding property taxes. This corner was seen as one of Cincinnati's prime business locations and the city was going through a redevelopment phase. The Sinton was demolished by March 1965. ( 

(From: William Hagerman Graves, "The Use of Tile in the Interior Finish and Decoration of Hotels", The Architectural Review, Vol. II, No. 4, April 1913, p. 45)

Pier in the Grand Dining Room showing one of the Rookwood faience "Seasons" murals.

"Spring” designed by John D Wareham (1907).

These are three of John D. Wareham’s four “Seasons” tile panels removed from the piers in the Sinton’s dining room prior to the hotel's demolition. The larger Rookwood wall panels, however, might not have been saved from demolition. (The fourth “Seasons” panel, "Winter" is pictured above in the Rookwood section of this article.)



The Mills Restaurant, 31-39 East Fourth Street

(Picture Post Card from Don Prout's "Cincinnati Views" website,

In 1921 the Mills Restaurant was opened in Cincinnati. In an article about this restaurant and the use of tile for sanitary reasons, and to provide a decorative environment, the Brick and Clay Record stated: “Mr. Mills...selected tile for the interior...because he recognized the unequalled decorative and sanitary possibilities of this material. He adopted the Dutch Mill as the significant trade mark in connection with his business... .

This panel sold at auction for $1200. (From: Terry Kovel, "Dummy Boards" in Treasures magazine, Vol. 2, No. 3, September 2012, pp. 56-57)

(From Cowan’s Auctions:, search for "Mills Restaurant")

“The restaurant proper is composed of two sections. The main dining room...has been finished in Rookwood wall tile in blue, black and gray in strong colors, and vitrified floor colors. There is also a clock and fountain of tile, while the grills that temper the air are also of tile.

(From: 5/19/2012 - Cowan’s Spring Fine and Decorative Art Auction, Lot 351;, search for "Mills Restaurant")


“About the walls are twenty-one scenic panels depicting Dutch life and scenery... . Adjoining this room is the ‘sales department,’ where the food is selected, it being a cafeteria, which is done in light glazed wall tile with a border decoration of Rookwood faience tile. The floor in this section is the same as in the dining room. The kitchen is laid with red floor tile... .” (“Tile Proves Ideal Material for Restaurants”, Brick and Clay Record, Vol. 59, No., 7, October 4, 1921, p. 514) 

(From:, search for "Mills Restaurant")
Bacchus architectural faience frieze, mask with ram's horns, grape vines and leaves, 18"H x 25"W x 5.5"D.

The murals were designed by Rookwood decorator William Purcell McDonald (1865-1931) according to a plaque in the Cincinnati Art Museum. "Born in Cincinnati, Ohio McDonald never ventured far from his birth place throughout his career. McDonald trained at the Cincinnati Art Academy under Frank Duveneck (1848 – 1919), a highly accomplished academic painter. McDonald is best known as a painter and sculptor for Rookwood Pottery in Cincinnati where he became head of the architectural department in 1904 until his death in 1931. McDonald was also a member of the Cincinnati Art Club."

Photos of the Wheatley showroom courtesy of Wooden Nickel Antiques.

The Wheatley Tile Company Showroom, 561 Reading Road

“T. J. Wheatley began his career in Cincinnati in the early 1870s working for Dayton Street/Coulton Pottery. In 1879 the Cincinnati Pottery Company was formed as a vehicle for Wheatley and his students. By the end of 1880 Wheatley was successfully selling to Tiffany & Co and he worked for Weller in 1897. In 1903 Wheatley and Isaac Kahn formed the Wheatley Pottery Company making art pottery, garden ware and architectural items. It was in the lobby of this company's showroom that the fountain[, below,] was installed.” ( Wheatley Pottery produced an arts and crafts style pottery. T.J. Wheatley worked in Cincinnati, OH, with founders of the art pottery movement, including M. Louise McLaughlin of Rookwood. Wheatley's plant was destroyed by fire in 1910. However, Wheatley continued producing pottery until 1927 when the Cambridge Tile Manufacturing Company bought Wheatley Pottery. (Information taken from an internet webpage that no longer exists on the Wooden Nickel Antiques website: Wooden Nickel Antiques salvaged items from the Wheatley Tile Company showroom.)

In 2010 Michael Williams and his Wooden Nickel Antiques were hired to salvage items in the Wheatley showroom before it was demolished.

"[This] decorative tile fountain was installed on a wall in the Wheatley Tile showroom building when it was built in the early 1920s. It was laid tile by tile on a brick wall covered with a two inch veneer of concrete set on two levels. 

“The top half was in the entrance hall and the bottom half was about two feet lower in the original showroom and set in concrete. Since the concrete is harder than the tiles and the tiles tend to break, the removal of the entire wall was required to remove the fountain intact.” ( 

“In addition to the fountain the project included the salvage of the pair of 9 foot tall mosaic tile columns with gilt Corinthian capitols that originally flanked the fountain, a pair of bronze exterior sconces that were on each side of the massive entrance door with a bronze grill and a pair of impressive 9 foot tall oak arched doors. 

“A number of 6 by 6 inch Wheatley decorative tiles from around the showroom and many decorative floor tiles, including two cold air returns depicting parrots, were recovered.” (


I would like to thank Prof. Richard Mohr, Robert Switzer and Nicholas Massa for their help with the photos, and Alta and Michael Sims for driving us around Cincinnati and taking in the sights with us. Thanks, also, to the Rookwood Pottery for the excellent tour of its facilities; Humler & Nolan Auction Galleries; Anita J. Ellis, the Deputy Director for Curatorial Affairs at the Cincinnati Art Museum, for the tour of the Museum and the excellent talk about Rookwood glaze lines; Michael Williams and Wooden Nickel Antiques for permission to use the Wheatley photos; and the American Art Pottery Association for holding its convention in the Queen City this year.


Anita J. Ellis, Rookwood Pottery: The Glaze Lines, Schiffer Publishing Co., Ltd, Atglen, PA, 1995.

Anita J. Ellis has written other works that should be read for a full understanding of the Rookwood Pottery and the influence of Cincinnati’s ceramic artists in the 19th and early 20th centuries:

Rookwood and the American Indian: Masterpieces of American Art Pottery from the James J. Gardner Collection (co-authored with Susan Labry Meyn, 2007)

Rookwood Pottery: The Glorious Gamble (1992)

The Ceramic Career of M. Louise McLaughlin (2003)

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