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There is no place more delightful than one's own fireplace. ~Cicero
Reproduction Tiles Meet Glessner House
A few years back, I made some tiles for Bill Tyre, the curator of the Glessner House museum in Chicago (Another reason to visit). With his assistance, I've made the historic master bedroom fireplace tiles, with the same cobalt background, as well as black and cream backgrounds. The original tiles are eight inches, but I've also made them in a six-inch version. Here are the photos Bill sent me of the tiles.
Glessner House Master Bedroom Fireplace
Original Tiles, photos by William Tyre
I'm excited about this because it's a large and very American Arts & Crafts fireplace and the De Morgan tiles are perfectly at home. I have seen quite a bit of Morris in traditional American Arts & Crafts homes, but De Morgan is less well known and not often used in restorations.
John and Frances Glessner were sophisticated collectors of American and English Arts and Crafts, decorating their home with works by both William De Morgan and William Morris. The walls of this master bedroom are papered in Golden Lily, and the chairs are covered in Fruit fabric. The Glessner fireplace tiles consist of 35 tiles in two alternating patterns, a fan and a double carnation. The original tiles are eight-inches, on a cobalt background.
While the original De Morgan tiles were 8 inch, De Morgan produced similar patterns in both 8-inch and 6-inch versions. My tiles based on this design are available on both 6 and 8 inch tiles. Similar tiles were used as borders and wall coverings.
In addition to the original cobalt, the Glessner House tiles are available in the following colors.
Background Colors: Pale cream, cobalt, indigo (not shown), black
Other Colors: Only the background colors can be modified easily. However, you really must order a sample tile first. Do see the Frequently Asked Questions if you're trying to match a color.
The Glessner House tiles are available on 4.25 inch, 6-inch and the original 8 inch tiles (see photos below). You can customize a backsplash of alternating tiles to fit any size area. For example, twenty 6-inch tiles will cover a 24 x 30 inch backsplash.
You can mix and match tiles to form a variety of patterns, as well as the alternating pattern installed at Glessner House.
4.25 inch square tiles: $46
6 inch square tiles: $58 each
8 inch square tiles: $74 each
Part of all William Morris Tile sales benefit a charity. Not surprisingly, the Glessner tiles go to Glessner Restoration projects, currently Fanny's bedroom.
Glessner House, on Chicago's Prairie Avenue, shocked its wealthy neighborhood when it was completed in 1887. George Pullman, of the sleeping cars, who lived across the street from Glessner House, is reported to have said, "I do not know what I have ever done to have that thing staring me in the face every time I go out of my door." And the facade was, and is, imposing with no hint of the well-lit rooms, and bright courtyard in the interior.
Glessner House was the last creation of architect Henry Robson Richardson, who died three weeks after it was completed. It is called, I'm not sure by whom, the "Richardsonian Romanesque" style, which incorporates elements of both Spanish and French Romanesque characteristics. I'm not particularly architecturally literate and think of it as "American Medieval". Other examples of the style are Trnity Church in Boston and the American Museum of Natural History in New York.
John J. Glessner was a partner in a farm machinery manufacturer in Springfield, Ohio, who relocated to Chicago after his marriage to Frances Macbeth. The company did well and Glessner decided to commission a home for his family on prestigious Prairie Avenue. Eventually, his company merged with four others to form International Harvester, and Glessner would be appointed vice president of the then fourth largest corporation in America.
Desite its rich history, Glessner House has a Cinderella story. After John's death, Glessner house was passed around to the American Institute of Architects, the Armour Institute, the Lithographic Technical Foundation, until slated for demolition in the early 1960s. The Chicago Architecture Foundation, founded in 1966 to save Glessner House, purchased for $35K.
In addition to the De Morgan fireplace, the Master bedroom is decorarated with William Morris fabrics and textiles. The wallpaper is Golden Lily and the chairs are covered in Fruit fabric. Over-the-top by today's standards, this was a very minimalist approach for late 19th century Victorians.
Master bedroom fireplace, 1923
After the deliverance of Glessner House in 1966, Glessner's descendants began returning its original furnishings. And what furnishing they were: The Glessners had amassed objects and and furniture characteristic of both English and American Arts & Crafts including William Morris and William De Morgan.
After John's death, three sets of fireplace tiles were removed from Glessner House and the original De Morgan fan and double carnations were installed at The Rocks, the New Hampshire cottage of Frances Glessner Lee, John's daughter.
Library fireplace at The Rocks
After Frances Glessner Lee's death, her daughter, Martha Lee Batchelder carried on the task of returning the original furnishings to Glassner House. Unfortunately, Martha died unexpectedly in Bermuda without having made a written record of her intent and the tiles were kept at cottage. Negotiations with subsequent owners were fruitless until the cottage was purchased by the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forest who offered them to Glessner House and the tiles were removed in late 2016 and returned at long last.
Text Listing of De Morgan Tiles (with links)