Earlier this year, several hundred tiles on the kitchen, pantry, and servants’ hallway floors were reset, having broken loose from years of heavy traffic. It had long been assumed that the tiles were English Minton, but an examination of the backside of one of the tiles revealed that they were American made encaustic tiles.
Encaustic tiles are 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. The pattern is inlaid into the body of the tile, so that the design remains as the tile is worn down. Encaustic tiles may be glazed or unglazed and the inlay may be as shallow as an eighth of an inch, as is often the case with "printed" encaustic tile from the later medieval period, or as deep as a quarter inch.
The tiles in the Glessner kitchen are unglazed and in solid colors – terra cotta, tan, and gray. The only pattern present results from the arrangement of the tiles, producing a checkboard pattern in the middle of the floor and a simple but pleasing border around the sides of the rooms.
The tiles were manufactured by the American Encaustic Tiling Company, at one time reported to be the largest tile manufactory in the world. The company was founded in
By 1890 an enlarged factory was required, and the founders, based in
The new plant was completed in two years and dedicated on
An interesting side note – John Glessner’s sister Mary, married Thomas Kimball and they built their home (shown above) in