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The rise and fall of an art form: Architectural terra cotta on California's coast from the early 1900s to 1930s

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UMI
THE RISE AND FALL OF AN ART FORM: ARCHITECTURAL TERRA COTTA
ON CALIFORNIA'S COAST FROM THE EARLY 1900S TO 1930S
A Thesis
Presented
to the Faculty of
California State University Domínguez Hills
In Partial Fulfillment
of the Requirements for the Degree
Master of Arts
in
Humanities
by
Valerie Jean Dearborn
Fall 2010
UMI Number: 1490137
All rights reserved
INFORMATION TO ALL USERS
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In the unlikely event that the author did not send a complete manuscript
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a note will indicate the deletion.
UMI
Dissertation Publishing
UMI 1490137
Copyright 2011 by ProQuest LLC.
All rights reserved. This edition of the work is protected against
unauthorized copying under Title 17, United States Code.
®
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Copyright by
VALERIE JEAN DEARBORN
2010
All Rights Reserved
THESIS:
THE RISE AND FALL OF AN ART FORM: ARCHITECTURAL
TERRA COTTA ON CALIFORNIA'S COAST FROM THE
EARLY 1900S TO 1930S
AUTHOR:
VALERIE JEAN DEARBORN
APPROVED:
Gilah Y. Hirsch, M.F.A.
Thesis Committee Chair
Lawrence Wm. Klepper, M.F.A.
Committee Member
Anita L. Chang, D.M.A.
Committee Member
Dedicated to my Mother and Sister:
Ruth Jeanette Hardage
and
Lani Hardage-Vergeer
IV
TABLE OF CONTENTS
PAGE
COPYRIGHT PAGE
ii
APPROVALPAGE
iii
DEDICATION
iv
TABLE OF CONTENTS
?
LIST OF FIGURES
vii
ABSTRACT
viii
CHAPTER
!.INTRODUCTION
1
Background
Clay Mining
Techniques and Kilns
2
3
4
Art and Architectural Tile Business
Visual Analysis of the Elements of Art in Terra Cotta
5
Early California Architects
5
State of Research
7
Terminology
Central Argument
8
10
2. CLAY MINING
11
3. TECHNIQUES AND KILN TYPES
15
4. ART TILE AND TERRA COTTA BUSINESS:
FROM BACKYARD TO BOOMTOWN
22
5. VISUAL ANALYSIS OF ELEMENTS OF ART IN TERRA COTTA
32
6. EARLY CALIFORNIA ARCHITECTS: THEIR BUILDINGS AND
ICONICSTYLES
37
?
CHAPTER
PAGE
7. THE DECLINE OF TERPvA COTTA AND
PRESERVATIONOFANHISTORICALARTFORM
Conclusion
47
51
WORKSCITED
53
APPENDICES
A: GLADDING MCBEAN ORDER #1051
60
B: GLADDING MCBEAN TROPICO DIVISION ORDERS, 1926-1929
62
Vl
LIST OF FIGURES
PAGE
1 . San Francisco's Terra Cotta Skyline circa 1915
12
2. Gladding McBean Clay Mining Pits
14
3. Turn of the Century Clay Workers
15
4. Clay Worker
16
5. Beehive Kiln
18
6. Setting Plan
20
7.Mexican-Themed Cuenca Tile
24
8. The California Building in Balboa Park, San Diego
28
9. Santa Fe Railway Domed Logo, San Diego
30
10. Mayan Theater Exterior Detail, Los Angeles
31
11. Los Angeles Herald-Examiner Building Tiled Dome
33
12. Organic ornament and cornice in terra cotta
33
13. The Mills Building Detail: Carved Capitols and Perforated Cornices,
San Francisco
34
14. Eastern Building Color and Texture Detail, Los Angeles
37
1 5 . Downtown San Francisco after the 1 906 Earthquake.
Center/Top: The Mills Building
40
16. Julia Morgan's Casa Grande Entrance at Hearst's Castle
42
17. Sid Grauman's Million Dollar Theater
43
1 8. Art Tile from the Egyptian Theater Entryway, Los Angeles
44
1 9. Fine Arts Building Entryway, Balboa Park, San Diego
47
vii
ABSTRACT
The use of architectural terra cotta was a major trend that escalated in the early
1900s on the West Coast. This study examines the sources of clay, techniques, and early
terra cotta businesses. A visual analysis ofthe elements of art firmly place terra cotta as
an important medium in an epoch of architectural art making. Key architects and their
buildings are investigated for the legendary work they accomplished. The central
argument purports that the fall of the industry was not solely based upon the depression
years, but upon a turn away from the medium of terra cotta as style and taste changed and
mechanization replaced artistic talent. The significance of this vanishing art form points
to the necessity of historic preservation.
1
CHAPTER 1
INTRODUCTION
The West Coast of California bears the imprint of an era wherein form and
aesthetics of architectural ornamentation met in a visual display of magnificence. In the
early 1900s, the Golden State of California utilized terra cotta in epic proportions for
ornamentation. Artisans in terra cotta began from upstart, backyard endeavors and their
work grew to a frenzy of output by the 1920s. An array of subject matter was depicted in
tile and low and high relief art was regularly created and secured to building exteriors.
Stylization and subject matter varied greatly. Methods of creation ranged from simple or
complex handmade items to machine mass-production. Multi-step techniques were
successfully employed, as a team of individuals played significant roles in completing
any project. Architects, artisans in terra cotta, chemists, masons, engineers, crane or
elevator operators and shipping lines required cooperative labor. The importance of a
passing era of terra cotta raises significant, unanswered questions in the field of
architectural sculpture.
Why was terra cotta architectural ornamentation so rapidly and broadly adopted?
Why did an element so broadly used also so abruptly terminate? A new look at answers
provide informative implications on the West Coast today.
2
Background
In the 170Os, the California Missions used red-roof tiles, created entirely for
function and not decoration. "The Indians at the mission San Miguel Archangel were
excellent at making roof tiles. Between 1808 and 1809, they made 36,000 tiles. They
would sell or trade the tiles to other missions" (Garretson). The tiles were made by
tromping on cut straw with local, naturally reddish-brown clay. The roofing was sealed
with adobe, creating a long-lasting waterproof shelter (Garretson). In 1 895 a writer for
the Los Angeles Times wrote, "The houses ofthe Spanish people were adobe with terra
cotta red roof tiles. The clay used to make the bricks was brown, not white or yellow as in
Mexico" ("Southern"). Roofing tile served early Spanish settlers as architecture rather
than decoration. The red roof tiles are the earliest written records of terra cotta tile
making along the coast. As the West-Coast cities grew, the focus from functional roofing
to decorative arts also flourished. Terra cotta was a medium which was durable, fireproof
and locally available. The clay artisan was able to make the fired clay resemble granite,
marble or limestone, quickly replacing the costly and often imported stone. Terra cotta
was practical and cost effective in comparison to stone sculpting, even considering the
labor-intensive hand techniques in use.
3
Clay Mining
Each part of the rapid-growth industry of architectural ornamentation had an
impact upon the art form. Clay mining was a big business, large enough to change the
face of the geographic regions from which it was extracted. Clay was discovered in
Northern California near Sacramento while workers dug roads in Placer County
(California, 1:87).
The town called Lincoln was nicknamed "Clay City" and produced the "richest
deposits of kaolin in the west" (21, 85). Out ofthis huge reserve of clay, the still
successful company of Gladding, McBean and Company was birthed (187). In 1926 the
Glendale plant of Gladding McBean produced "fifty thousand square feet of tile each
month," evidence for the demand of decorative tile in this time period (187). Many
companies mixed clay with sand, as was sometimes necessary with clay found in Amador
County (70). The rich reserves of native California clays endowed tile makers with an
abundant supply for their production.
In Southern California, John H. McKnight of the California Clay Products found a
rich quarry of clay at El Cajon Mountain in 1906 (85). At Aberhill, near Elsinore,
California, a 480 acre parcel was mined ("Valuable"). Eighteen-thousand tons were
excavated from Cardiff and Oro Grande (near San Bernardino) for the L.A. Pressed Brick
Company ("New Clay"; California 2:35). Malibu Potteries specialized in tiles made from
local Malibu Ranch clay near Zuma Beach (California 2:43). California mining sites
were plentiful enough to supply numerous tile companies that sprang up and demanded
terra cotta.
4
Techniques and Kilns
Terra cotta, or "burnt earth," was fired in kilns of various sizes. Trash cans in the
backyard served as primitive kilns, and as production grew, so did the need for large
capacity kilns. Bee-hive and tunnel kilns functioned as the central oven for hardening the
clay. The use of natural fuels for kilns was immense, as was their size. Hefty amounts of
digger pine and diesel were necessary in bringing about a durable result.
Early hand-built forms varied in technique. Grog, glaze and slip were components
of a finished piece. The plaster mold technique was widely used for sculptural forms, as
was the layering technique for art tile (Giorgini 133-137). Dust pressing was a machine
technique that allowed companies to mass-produce tiles (California 2: 218). Extrusion
and perforation were two more machine techniques commonly used (228). As demand
grew, the consistency of mass fabrication by hydraulic machinery became the focal point,
and the individual creative process declined.
Art Tile and Architectural
Terra Cotta Business
Hand-made art tiles began to be in demand by coastal citizens and companies in
the early 1900s (Giorgini 16). Tile making flourished until the early depression days. At
its zenith, tile makers found their niche in the market and created prolific amounts of
decorated tile for both interior and exterior decoration as confirmed by existing buildings
and reports of amounts of clay being consumed by multiple companies.
5
Widespread use of exterior decorative tile, methods for making tile, and stylistic features
are vital features of art tile. Finishing techniques were specific trademarks of a company,
wherein glaze combinations and applications identified and set them apart.
Business began as small, up-start companies run from the backyard of a residence
and grew into million dollar enterprises. Specific companies played major roles in
production of terra cotta. The L.A. Pressed Brick Company, Calco, Claycraft, Malibu
Potteries, and California China Products were some of the larger commercial art tile
businesses by the early 1920s (Giorgini 16,17). One company, Gladding McBean, was
the giant of the industry in sculptural terra cotta, and is the only survivor of the era in
which over 24 companies gainfully achieved a living from terra cotta (Kurutz 10).
Visual Analysis of the Elements of Art
in Terra Cotta
Art forms in terra cotta consist of the elements of art: line, form, space, shape,
color, value and/or texture. The elements of art may be identified and enhanced or
diminished in art work. The use of terra cotta as an art form was a successful replacement
of stone sculpting in time, cost and aesthetics. As such, the elements of art in each piece
establish it as an art form, and not simply an embellishment.
Early California Architects
Each of the elements of art and corresponding stylistic features are readily
identifiable on buildings that have endured close to a century or more. Today, West Coast
cities of San Francisco, Los Angeles, and San Diego still have numerous edifices in use
that display the rich art form of terra cotta.
6
The adornment takes many forms. Entryways and steps, as well as entire domes,
are made of tile from the time period. Terra cotta was fashioned into cornices, columns,
capitals and bases, tiles, company logos, high relief statues (animal and human), panels
and murals. European themes, natural West-Coast beauty, foreign customs, and themes of
oceans and boats are examples of tiles that fall into specific styles.
San Francisco experienced an unprecedented use of architectural terra cotta after
the 1906 earthquake. In the Marina District, architect Bernard Maybeck created the
Palace of the Fine Arts in 1915 with extensive terra cotta ornamentation in the Beaux-
Arts Style. The downtown historic core has numerous buildings with terra cotta curtainwall construction in addition to ornamentation. In San Simeon, Hearst Castle was built
over a period of 28 years, beginning in 1919 (Ca.gov). Designed by architect Julia
Morgan, it is an example of Spanish Revival with extensive terra cotta tile work.
In Los Angeles, many theaters have exteriors adorned with processed clay. The
Million Dollar Theater, the Mayan Theater, the Egyptian and Chinese Theaters and the
Orpheum not only incorporate terra cotta, but stylistically "borrow" iconography from
around the globe to tie form and function in Hollywood fashion.
Other landmarks include places of worship such as Temple Sinai, famous hotels
including the Biltmore, and city business structures such as the Edison Building.
The historic core of Los Angeles is rich with terra cotta detail. In San Diego, chief
architect of Balboa Park, Bertram Grosvenor Goodhue, erected twenty-six edifices using
terra cotta in the Spanish- Colonial Revival style (Schaffer).
7
The famous Santa Fe Depot in San Diego was designed by San Francisco
architects Bakewell and Brown and was built in the Mission Revival style (Schaffer).
Lasting legacies of terra cotta-enhanced structures designed by numerous famous
architects are currently visible all along the West Coast of California.
State of Research
There has been research on various aspects of terra cotta use. Authors dispute the
reasons for decline of terra cotta as an art form. Disparate theories demand a deeper look
into the factors contributing to its demise. Historic preservation is at the core of positive
outcomes for this research. Preservationists of our architectural heritage are concerned
with topics such as damage from improper installation and seismic retrofitting, which has
impact upon renewed interest in this historical art form (Tunick 44;
Friedman 17). Large sums of money are necessary to accomplish goals of repairing
historic sites, and several groups lead the way in conservation efforts in each major West
Coast city. The decline of terra cotta art form in architecture implies the necessity of
caring for existing structures.
Terminology
The subject of architectural terra cotta contains a wealth of subject-specific
vocabulary. There are many words in the technique, design and process of terra cotta.
8
Materials
Glaze: An opaque coating that is applied to fired clay by painting, spraying or dipping the
piece. It is primarily used to add color and/or texture, but also serves as a waterproofing.
Grog: Substances added to terra cotta to open the pores and create hardness, such as
finely ground pottery that was previously fired.
Kaolin: Hydrated aluminum silicate clay.
Slip: Fine clay mixed with water into a creamy consistency. It is used in casting, glazing,
decorating, and repairing terra cotta. It may be used as glaze decoration.
Kiln Types
Beehive Kiln: Down-draft, brick kilns characterized by a dome-shaped roof.
Scove Kiln: A simple kiln used by early settlers. Bricks were stacked on the ground to the
height of three feet a series of long side-by-side arches which were then built up to twelve
feet. Fires were lit in the arches spaces.
Tunnel Kilns: Kilns often used for mass-produced products. They operated on a
continuous conveyor belt or railcar with the clay product traversing the kiln and gradually
being heated from room temperature, through a hot zone, and back down to room
temperature.
Machine-Made
Curtain-wall construction: Non-bearing walls of terra cotta that were placed over a steel
structure to imitate real stone.
Extrusion: Clay is forced through a steel die or rollers to make thin, flat pieces of onedirectional design.
9
Hydraulics: The use of the motion of water or other liquids in motion to transmit energy
to machines.
Ram Pressing: Clay was pressed into shallow molds by means of machine.
Rollers: Rollers that shape the clay into various thicknesses by hand or machine.
Sculptural Techniques
Bas Relief: Sculpting technique in which the form minimally projects.
High Relief: Sculpting technique in which the projection is deep and nearly "in the
round."
Architectural Elements
Capital: The uppermost element of columns.
Column: A supporting or resisting element.
Cornice: The uppermost element of the building; also used for crowning a wall.
Moldings: Long, regular channels or outcroppings, often decorative and used for
finishing.
Motifs: A distinct design element occurring as an individual shape.
Patterns: Repeated ornamental designs, usually on a flat surface or in relief.
Running Ornament: A repeating pattern that continues in a direction, like a band.
Central Argument
The terra cotta industry never again saw such demand and output as in the early
1900s, and art as ornamentation declined rapidly by the late 1930s. What were the causes
of the decline in the art form of terra cotta for exterior architectural ornamentation?
10
Historical evidence demands a conclusion other than impending war. This thesis proposes
that the decline in production was not based solely on rough economic times.
Instead, the decline in the art form is directly linked to the mechanization of the terra
cotta industry. Machine production ushered in the demise of the art form, overtook the
artistry of the individual, and the demand for a "new," Streamline Moderne look replaced
terra cotta as a primary design element in architecture.
11
CHAPTER 2
CLAY MINING
By the early 1900s, clay was used in epic proportions on architecture in
California. The source of clay was primary to both architect and craftsperson. Terra cotta
is often used as a reference to the reddish-brown color of fired clay. However, it simply
means baked earth. The clay could be any color which changes after firing into durable,
lightweight, and fireproof material in an array of colors from buff to dark brown.
Clay was used in New York, Boston and Chicago on load-bearing walls for
architectural ornamentation much earlier than in California. It was a renaissance of use
from Babylonian and Italian Architecture (Finley 1). With their own clay sites, eastern
and midwestern cities were built circa the 1 850s using terra cotta as a replacement for the
more expensive and time-consuming stones. Artisans imitated granite, limestone, marble
and numerous other stones and textures with terra cotta (Henry 12). California did not
enter the trend until the late 1800s (Kurutz 89).
While the California Gold Rush was in full swing in Northern California, another
natural resource would prove to be in greater abundance than gold. Clay was found near
Sacramento in 1874 while workers cut into a ridge for a Placer County road (Kurutz 89;
California 1 : 21). In Lincoln, or Clay City, a massive reserve of very fine kaolin clay
empowered Charles Gladding and his partners, Peter McGiIl McBean and George
Chambers, to form the still successful company of Gladding, McBean and Company
(Kurutz 89).
12
The primary product of Gladding McBean was originally sewer pipe, but the
demand for terra cotta grew rapidly. In 1913, the United States Post Office in Santa
Barbara used an estimated uncrated weight of 63 tons of post-fired material (Appendix
A). The purchase of Tropico Pottery in 1920 made the company a stiff competitor in the
architectural tile business. In 1926, the Glendale plant of Gladding McBean produced
"fifty thousand square feet oftile each month," evidence for the demand of decorative
terra cotta tile in this time period (California 1 : 187). Orders detail the massive amounts
of terra cotta used on many buildings. A review ofthe company's records shows the
amount of clay ordered ranged anywhere from a few pounds up to the 470 tons used on
the United Artists Theater in Los Angeles. So much clay was extracted from the Northern
California clay deposits that thousands of buildings up and down the West Coast were
embellished during the early 1900s (Kurutz 13). The rich reserves of native California
clays provided Western architects with an abundant supply for production.
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Figure 1 . Moulin, Gary. San Francisco's Terra Cotta Skyline circa 1915.
Terra Cotta Standard Construction. New York: National Terra Cotta Society, 1914. N. pag.
13
Clay mining had become big business in California by the early 1900s.
In Southern California, rich quarries of clay were found at both inland and coastal sites.
In 1903, the Los Angeles Times reported a find near Elsinore by a man in the pottery
business from Iowa ("Valuable")· Three years later, another discovery of porcelain grade
kaolin was made at El Cajon Mountain. It was attributed to John H. McKnight of the
California China Products Company in National City (California 1 : 85). At Aberhill,
near Elsinore, a 480 acre parcel was mined and found to be abundant with native clay
("Corona"). In 191 1, the Temescal Clay Products Company purchased 140 acres of clay
for $20,000 ("Angelenos" 115/ Two other prominent sites supplied up to 18,000 tons of
clay from Cardiff and Oro Grande near San Bernardino for the Los Angeles Pressed
Brick Company ("New Clay"; California 1: 35). The Los Angeles Times again reported
on the clay mining industry in 1919, stating that "a huge mountain of clay six miles from
Elsinore would supply twenty big, new industries with twelve varieties of clay"
("Mountain").
Clay was extracted by pit-mining. However, moving the clay from pit to plant
was no simple endeavor. During the early years, horse or mule-drawn wagons carried the
clay from pit to plant (Kurutz 89- 90; Volkerding 59). A narrow-gauge railway was built
circa 1908 to expedite the movement of the heavy substance (59). Clay was later shipped
via the Central Pacific Railroad to the plant, then on waterways to various destinations
(Kurutz 90).
14
Southern California sites were plentiful enough to supply the numerous companies that
sprang up and demanded architectural terra cotta. Procuring quality clay was integral to
the architectural terra cotta industry. It also changed the geographic face of California.
Cities were clad with terra cotta details while clay mining left huge earthen pits to be
filled.
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Figure 2: "Gladding McBean Clay Mining Pits." Images of America: Placer County.
By Arthur Sommers. Charleston: Arcadia, 2010.13.
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15
CHAPTER 3
TECHNIQUES AND KILN TYPES
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Figure 3. White, Charles E., Jr. Turn ofthe Century Clay Workers. 1938.
American Terra Cotta Corporation. Great Britain: International Textbook Company, 32.
When clay arrived at the plant, it weathered on racks while the actual composition
was determined (White 29). It was then mixed with grog to alter the composition into a
product with desirable characteristics: plasticity while being formed and rigidity after
firing. The grog consisted of previously burnt, ground clay which was mixed in a pug
mill, a mixer that ground and mixed the clay with water. After a smooth mass was
achieved, clay was ready to be cast, carved, or molded (King 85; White 29). Next, the
mixed clays were tested to insure the strength of the final product after firing.
16
Clay workers were required to know the characteristics of clay. They had to
follow architectural plans to exact specifications, and to make a "shop drawing" to be
approved by the architect before beginning any further work (Gladding App. A;
Kurutz, 92).
Figure 4. White, Charles E., Jr. Clay Worker. American Terra Cotta Corporation.
Great Britain:International Textbook Company, 1938.33.
The clay workers analyzed the shop drawing for "construction, size of individual
pieces, length of feature, the relation of terra cotta to its contiguous building materials, its
connection with steel framing, and all other details" (King 87). Full-size drawings were
then made, allowing for shrinkage, approximately one inch to fourteen inches. The
product would then be created in the modeling shop, where skilled sculptors would make
moulds from plaster, thereby allowing the product to be re-made if called for in the
future.
The clay workers' proficiency was at the core of the terra cotta industry's success.
Evidence of their mastery places architectural terra cotta firmly in the realm of art, not
simply adjunct ornamentation.
17
A photographer was another vital individual in the business. The certification that
terra cotta pieces were made according to the exact standards of the architect was
achieved by photography. It was a visual aide to architect who might be miles from the
business. Accurate, detailed records regularly included photographic documentation.
Model-making and mould-making were integral steps in developing the final
product. The plaster shop was the center of creativity for both positive and negative
shapes. The model was executed in clay to exacting standards. Moulds, the negative
images, were made from gypsum plaster by building a box around the original clay
model (White 34). Large pieces were modeled in one piece, and then cut into numbered
sections before moulds were made (34). The mould was pressed with the clay mixture by
hand, and later by hydraulic machinery to speed the process. Precise fitting could be
undertaken after the firing process (King 87).
The piece was removed from the mould as soon as it had shrunk away from the
sides. Terra cotta could then be tooled to achieve the desired surface finish. The clay
dried with attention to the overall depth of each piece. Drying too quickly could seriously
warp and ruin a piece (White 35). After the piece was thoroughly dried, it was sprayed
with an air compressor, applying slip or glaze, and then placed in a kiln, a special oven
capable of reaching temperatures of 2000 to 2300 degrees (King 85).
Firing was accomplished in several stages. The first stage is referred to as watersmoking. In this critical stage, the clay is slowly heated while the water is vented away
from the product so as not to create stress fractures (White36). Next, the oxidization
period ensues.
18
This ensured that minerals were burnt out to a hardened point and gasses were released
(White 36). The final stage brought the clay and glaze close to vitrification, bonding the
clay and glaze into the final product. Slow cooling was necessary to achieve this step
(37).
Many varieties of kilns were used in the terra cotta business. The earliest kilns,
called scove kilns, were thought to be brought over by settlers from the East Coast
(Ritchie 46). Scove kilns were simple kilns made by stacking bricks on the ground in
arch formation with spacing in-between to the height of about three feet. Next, the bricks
were built up to twelve feet. The wall of bricks was scoved, or heavily plastered with
mud, to seal out drafts (46). Wood fires were lit in the arches and kept going for up to a
week, at which point the bricks were allowed to cool, then dismantled to remove the fired
objects (46).
Sai
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1
Figure 5. Welch, Susan D. Beehive Kiln at Gladding McBean. 2008.
Susan D.Welch Collection. Zephyr Cove, Nevada.
19
The beehive kiln, still in use today at Gladding Mc Bean, is a down-draft kiln that
was in use on the West Coast as early as 1 872 (Ritchie 49). True to its name it is in the
shape of a beehive. It is composed of brick walls and domed ceiling and it is large enough
to drive a forklift into it. The beehive kiln is a heat efficient design, although in the early
days, it was fueled by large amounts of Digger Pine, "consuming ten thousand cords of
pine annually" (Kurutz 90). The product is viewed through an arch door to observe the
status of the firing process. Gladding McBean ran "five kilns and a sixty-horsepower
stationary steam engine with two boilers (89). Beehive kilns were later converted to gas
heating.
Muffle kilns were double-walled large kilns that were in the shape of an early
milk bottle. The double wall served as insulation from direct heat, thereby protecting
pieces from over-firing. Many early terra cotta companies used the muffle kiln.
Tunnel kilns were in widespread use in the Los Angeles basin during the early
1900s ("New Type"). They were primarily used for large scale orders of terra cotta tile.
The tunnel kiln was built on a rail car which passed through a long tunnel (Terra Cotta).
Along the route, the clay went through the various stages necessary to bring the
clay close to vitrification. Gasses were controlled by a series of dampers along the route.
Tunnel kiln walls were hollow, gasses flowed up the tunnel, and sand pits were built on
the sides to collect a considerable quantity of condensation (Ritchie 51). Finally, the terra
cotta pieces had to be dried and laid out by numbered pieces according to a "setting plan"
before shipment. Any adjustments, such as chiseling ofjoints, had to occur before
shipment and installation.
20
Terra cotta was packed into hay for shipment. Means of shipment depended upon the
distance, and wagon, rail or boat were common means of transportation in the industry.
sro
Figure 6. White, Charles E. Jr., Setting Plan. American Terra Cotta Corporation.
Great Britain: International Textbook Company, 1938.45.
Another key consideration in making the product was how the piece would be
attached to the building. Directionality, usually vertical or horizontal, combined with
structural load, would be carefully considered as the use of raised or molded joints to
fasten the piece onto the building was included in the mould (Gladding App. A). Orders
would include directions for finish and color. Final pieces might be tooled or smooth,
each requiring a different set of skills for the sculptor.
Installation was often done by a different company, although in some instances,
the same company installed the terra cotta. The terra cotta pieces were attached to a
building by means of masonry backfill or metal hangers (Tiller 7-8).
21
The load of terra cotta was transferred to the steel frame (Friedman 18). Flashing and
weep holes allowed water to drain away, and they were necessary to keep the affixed
terra cotta from failing. Stressors included water damage resulting in rusting and erosion,
seismic activity, chemical abrasives, and joint failure.
The techniques and procedures for creating and handling terra cotta were time
consuming and detailed. In spite of this, they cost less than sculpting real stone and
required less time. Terra cotta was used for stone replacement innumerable times during
the early 1900s.
22
CHAPTER 4
ART TILE AND TERRA COTTA BUSINESSES:
FROM BACKYARD TO BOOMTOWN
Decorative tile, or art tile, emerged on the West Coast as an important
architectural element. As the population swelled in the early 1900s, the demand for art
tile increased proportionally. California tile makers reached prolific output of decorative
tile from 1900 to 1940, coined "The Golden Era" (California 1 : 8). The refinement of
tile- making in this era is revealed in visual displays of enduring craftsmanship from
many companies.
Tiles were used in a wealth of ways. Because of its durability, tile was used on
both exterior and interior surfaces. Many buildings were capped with domes of glazed
tiles. Wall murals, fountains, and stairways were clad with terra cotta tiles. Tile was
strong enough to endure heavy traffic of outdoor floors. Companies ordered designs for
logos and business promotion. Specific themes reflected the cultural uniqueness of the
region. Evidence of foreign origin also appeared in many designs.
In 1901, Ernest Batchelder of Pasadena, California, began a tile-making operation
in his backyard that later grew into the company called Batchelder Tile (16). He created
original, relieftiles from clay purchased outside California, but eventually from clay
mined in Corona (16). Batchelder made his handmade and production tile using the
following steps.
23
First, he rolled the clay to an even thickness. The size ofthe tile was often determined by
trial and error, as the clay's shrinkage varied according to its make-up. The method of
firing also played an important role in the final size (Giorgini 22). Batchelder also made
plaster molds by carving directly into the plaster, into which he hand-pressed clay
(California 1:35).
The tiles were not glazed, but coated with a light-blue monochromatic slip, or
watery clay. Before firing, Batchelder would rub off some of the slip to expose some of
the clay color, while the slip remained in the crevices, or negative space, rendering a
rustic, Arts and Crafts aesthetic (California 1 : 220; Giorgini 16). Batchelder's plaster
mold techniques were widely used by other artisans when creating their own tiles.
From Batchelder's backyard to large-scale tile manufacturing, companies sprang
up all over California during the Golden Era. There were over 35 companies operating
along the coast. Several companies favored earthy stylistic features of the Arts and Crafts
movement (California 1 : 9). Acme, Batchelder, Claycraft, Calco, and Handcraft were a
few of the Southern California tile makers, while CaI Art, Muresque, Poxon, and Walrich
were designing along the same naturalistic lines in the Northern California San Francisco
Bay Area. Tile makers created stylistic elements in which the themes and design elements
merged into a cohesive whole. Mexican rural life, the Old West and the American Indian
life were predominant themes. The natural splendor of coastal landscapes, wildlife, and
environment was yet another popular format. Art Deco became a popular tile style in the
1920s, shifting the emphasis from tile subject matter to streamlined, vibrantly colored
tiles.
24
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Figure 7. Karlson, Norman. Mexican-Themed Cuenca Tile.
Norman Karlson Collections. Pasadena, California.
Popular techniques for tile making consisted of layering, press molds, dust
pressing, perforation and extrusion. Layering was achieved when clay was first rolled by
hand between two slabs of wood to create even thickness. The clay worker would add
layers to achieve either a high or low relief. The layered clay required different drying
times based upon the thickness. Next, slip or glaze was often added before kiln firing.
The layering technique was appropriate for smaller pieces such as art tiles.
Press molded tiles were production tiles from which most relieftiles were created
so that delicate, raised lines were kept intact. In press molding, a hand press was used to
press the design into the top portion ofthe tile. Similarly, a machine press packed moist
clay into a plaster mold and increased production (Giorgini 54).
Automation increased the production of tiles by forcing powdered clay into steel molds,
or "dust pressing" by hydraulic pressure, a technology that enabled production of enough
tiles to decorate entire buildings (California 1: 219).
25
Extruded tiles were cut with wire from a continuous, rolled slab. This method
greatly improved uniformity of size and thickness. Tiles used as ventilators, drains and
grilles were perforated by machine to complete curvilinear designs (228). In all these
methods, the consistency of mass fabrication was an important factor in meeting the
demand for architectural ornamentation.
Art tile production was highlighted by means of the finishing technique. Attention
to detail was foremost when considering the procedure to be employed. Just as
Batchelder's trade design was blue slip finish, many companies focused on a specific
finishing process using glaze treatments and creating specific surface textures. Chemists
were sought to develop specific glaze trademarks for a company (222).
Depression-glazed tiles were created with a sunken area which was filled with
colorful glazes, while the background remained the color of the clay employed (222).
This allowed for use as floor tiles with minimal damage to the finish. Cuenca, or Raised
Lines, was a method used by Claycraft in Los Angeles whereby the finish was applied to
all areas except the lines by means of a syringe. Comparable to Cuenca was Cuerda Seca,
or Dry Line technique used by a company in Santa Monica (143-168). Painted on with a
syringe also, the Dry Line method was similar to a resist employed in silk painting which
separates the dye cells. The black or brown lines remain as separators of the glazes and
are part of the design (222). Dec-Art, of Hawthorne, applied a decal transfer method. The
artist would create an intricate design on paper, which would then be transferred to the
tile and re-fired (California 2: 223).
26
Silk-Screening was later introduced to the array of finish techniques as an outgrowth of
the tin-glazing and may be seen in the work of several tile manufacturers: Taylor, Malibu
Potteries and Hispano-Moresque Company (43). Lead glaze was coated onto the
background and then tinted with tin oxides which fused during firing, creating a very
smooth, durable surface (220).
Some of the visual effects of the finish process are revealed through glaze. Glazes
may be matte, semi-gloss, also called vellum, or high gloss (Berryman 5). Crystalline
glazing was an effect achieved by allowing salt crystals to form during the firing process,
leaving a pattern of colored crystals in the glaze (California 2: 220). Crackle glaze, or
crazing, was accomplished with transparent glazes, leaving desired "cracks" in the glaze.
Combining two different glazes which fuse during firing creates a mottled effect. The
method Batchelder's company exercised where watery clay of a single color was applied
and then partially wiped away is called engobe. And bisque, or unglazed tile, allowed the
natural pigmentation ofthe clay to manifest. These unglazed tiles were useful for
flooring, as glaze would have caused them to be slippery (220).
Glaze contamination was avoided at all costs. Not every type of glaze was
compatible, and foreign material accidentally put into the glaze could cause unwanted
results. As prevention, Malibu Potteries avidly cleaned each utensil after every use
(California 2: 43). All types of finishes were formed in multiple combinations under
different heating conditions in a kiln.
27
From the southernmost border of California extending to the Oregon border and
beyond, decorative tile was extensively employed in hundreds of public buildings in the
early 1900s. The deciding factor for tile installment appears not to have been the
buildings' uses, as there were many kinds of establishments using them (Gladding App.
B). Rather, the people of the era valued durability and artistic endeavor. Value of
ornamentation, coupled with vogue of design and color, was reason enough for
ornamentation of many public and private buildings. Theaters, transportation centers,
newspapers, small business and large castles alike employed tile in architectural design.
The capstone of many architectural structures was a colorful, tiled dome, and may
be seen on many existing buildings today. Two sites in San Diego employing the domes
are the California Building in Balboa Park, 1912-1913, by architect Bertram Goodhue,
and the Santa Fe Railroad Depot, 1914, by John R. Bakewell and Arthur Brown, Jr.
Balboa Park was the site of the 1915 Panama-California exposition to celebrate the
opening ofthe Panama Canal (California 1: 86).
The California Building, along with several others in the park, was constructed of
"over ten thousand square feet of Moorish style tiles" selected to enhance and harmonize
with the Spanish-Colonial style ofthe building (California 1: 86). The crowning glory,
an eight pointed star is surrounded by a complex, geometric, repeating pattern.
28
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Figure 8. Sullivan, John. The California Building in Balboa Park. San Diego. 2 Jun 2010.
<http://www.public-domain-image.conVarchitecture/buildings/slides/california building-in-balboapark.html>.
The Santa Fe Railway depot was designed by a San Francisco firm: Blakewell
and Brown (Schneider). The exterior has twin towers with a geometric tile covering
them. California China Products Company, beateci m National City and headsd oy
Walter Nordhoff, prepared the vibrantly glazed tiles for the twin towers, as well as
interior tiles in the lunch room walls and floor, and the passenger waiting room
(California 1 : 88-89). In addition, California China Products created the Santa Fe logo, a
large circular cross with dark blue lettering unified with quadrants of blue and green
floral motif.
29
The green and goldenrod symmetrical floral motif on a dark blue ground surrounds the
emblem, as does the green and blue geometric hexagonal border. Brightly colored tiles
went against the trend of using softly colored tiles that were popular at the time (85).
Figure 9. Santa Fe Railway Logo Detail at San Diego TrainDepot. 3 Mar 2010. <http://www.publicdomain-image.corn/arcWtecture/churcMhumbs/santa-fe-dep
30
Many historic edifices in the greater Los Angeles area have fine examples of ornamental
tile. Of the numerous buildings, various theaters have beautiful tile facades and terra cotta
relief sculptures with tiles as frames. The Roxie, The Mayan and the Million Dollar
Theaters have extensive tile work (Irwin, Miller and Richey).
The Mayan Theater, located at 1044 Hill Street in Los Angeles, was designed by
Francisco Cornejo in 1927 (Los Angeles Conservancy). The façade bears extremely
ornate relief sculptures. Cast concrete Mayan, Aztec and Zapotee gods in high relief are
surrounded by low relief art tiles with Maya geometric designs. The supporting wall
repeats the floral pattern above the gods' heads in hollow tile by Gladding Mc Bean. In
1960, the façade was painted, ruining the original, natural finish.
Figure. 10. Mayan Theater Exterior Detail. Los Angeles. Los Angeles Conservancy. 4 April 2010.
<http://www.laconservancy.org/remaining/remaining-theaters.08.php4>.
The Los Angeles Herald-Examiner occupied a once-prominent building. Tiled
domes are on each corner of the edifice, and the entryways are tiled. The structure was
designed by Julia Morgan for William Randolph Hearst ("Public Art"). The tiled domes
resemble Hearst Castle's twin towers, also designed by Morgan.
31
The blue and gold zigzag tiles surround a twenty pointed star with white background. At
Hearst Castle, blue and gold tiles also surround the twin domes.
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Figure 11: Koshalek. Los Angeles Herald-Examiner Building Tiled Dome. 8 Nov 08.
<http://www.flicker.com/photos/Koshalek/2896991160>.
From the early nineteen hundreds, an unmistakable legacy of distinctive terra
cotta tile making was manifest along the West Coast. The demand for art tile quickly
grew as a number of companies designed their signature by means of theme and style.
The contribution of architects and tile makers to architectural ornamentation highlights
the Golden Era of terra cotta use.
32
CHAPTER 5
VISUAL ANALYSIS OF THE ELEMENTS
OF ART IN TERRA COTTA
The elements of art in architectural details establish terra cotta as an integral,
period art form. The elements of art: line, form, shape, space, value, color and texture, are
all evident in the making of each piece. In addition, several of the principles of art
establish the impact ofthe finished pieces; repeating patterns and rhythm, unity, balance,
and proportion are principles that can be readily identified in architectural terra cotta.
Line was used to render technical drawings by the architect and shop artist. Technical
drawings included the original concept, shop drawings and setting plans, and these were
drawn to scale. Whereas vertical lines were used to enhance the sense of height on a
building, horizontal lines were employed to emphasize the mass. Line creates shape, and
much of architectural detailing is found in repeating, closed shapes or patterns.
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Figure 12. Poletti, Thérèse. Organic Ornament and Cornice in Terra Cotta. 250 Sutter. San Francisco.
2 Feb 2010. <http://blog.timothypflueger.com/category/450-sutter/>.
33
Geometrie shapes, waves and scrolls, feathers, shells and other botanical specimens were
common repeating patterns. Simple repeating shapes brought focus and unity to the
building, such as a horizontal row of hemispheres in a beaded belt, or a framed belt of
duplicated flowers found in Figure 13.
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Figure 13. The Mills Building Detail: Carved Capitols and Perforated Cornices. 1906.
The Swig Company. 24 January 2010. <http://swigco.com/images/history.jpg>.
Numerous subjects were chosen by architects to exemplify form. Forms of
humans, the animal kingdom, mythological creatures, and organic specimens were
artfully crafted in terra cotta. Forms were often made in high-relief and accurately
detailed, ranging in complexity from simple to ornate. Bas relief and high relief forms
were carved on murals, panels, logos, and singular and paired statues. Cornices, capitals
and bases, and entryways were commonly clad with forms in terra cotta.
Space, a natural component of architectural structure, is strongly associated with
unity. The size relationship to surrounding buildings was customarily a consideration for
the architect (Barnet 40). Space was emphasized or diminished through dominant and
recessive characteristics in terra cotta.
34
A massive building or high relief sculpture was balanced by fine details. Subject
repetition fills the space and leads the eye in a given direction. Space remains a personal
and corporate experiential component in architecture.
Color, value and texture were primary features in terra cotta production. Since
various rocks were imitated, the burnt clay had to match the requisition. Granite, a gray-
flecked, coarse-grained rock, would be simulated differently than a reproduction of
alabaster with cream or pearl tints, or marble with veining. Limestone coloration was a
more even-toned gray or buff, and the grain structure was fine. Slate, usually charcoal
gray, needed to look structurally layered. Each stone color interpretation required
knowledge of the characteristics ofthe actual stone as well as the improvisation of it in
clay.
Textures were also created in terra cotta by tooling into damp clay. Smooth
textures belied the fact that burnt clay was very hard and durable. Smooth or rough,
textures were able to imitate not only stone, but fabrics. Herringbone, damask and tweed
were a few of the textures impressed into or built up on the clay. Textures were created in
running patterns using knots, wave scrolls, ropes, and basket-weave.
Glazes were a way to change both color and texture of the clay. Glazes could be
formulated to make the clay glassy, metallic, transparent or opaque, matte or high-gloss.
Many types of glazes were used. Ash glaze used wood or ash as flux. Blister glaze had
grains mixed into the glaze to create gaseous bubbles during firing, leaving desired
blisters. Zinc oxide was present in Bristol glaze, creating a thick high gloss surface in offwhite or mustard gold.
35
Zinc silicate combined with calcium silicate created crystalline glaze: tiny crystals
formed in the surface. Matte glaze, containing barium, was non-reflective and opaque.
During firing, table salt thrown into the kiln created a glasslike finish called salt glazing.
Slip glazing was watery clay with added color. Lead oxide was commonly used in glaze
for transparency. Formulations of glazes required testing and knowledge of mineral
components. Specific formulations created a signature for the host company.
Color intensity grew from monochromatic and soft coloration in the early 1900s
into vivid and unique color combinations during the 1920s and 30s. The Art Deco
Eastern Building in Los Angeles, Figure 14, designed by architect Claud Beelman in
1929, was craned with smooth, turquoise-blue, glazed vertical terra cotta work
contrasting against the complimentary color, pocked, gold-leafed terra cotta (Gleye 22).
Visually streamlined, the Eastern Building was created by balancing sleek, smooth
vertical pieces interrupted by bumpy, angular pieces. The elongated vertical layers draw
the viewer's eye upward.
36
Figure 14. Smith, Adam. The Eastern Building Color and Texture Detail. Los Angeles.
12 Dec 2010. <http://www.flickr.com/photos/army_arch/2695835064/>.
Art Deco terra cotta was sleek and streamlined, often bearing a bold and colorful
punch of color and leaving behind the ornate historical ornamentation of earlier periods.
The absence of irregularity was due to the change from hand-crafted items to
machination. Textures were slightly irregular when hand-made, whereas a "regurgitated
look" was produced during machine production (Fearnley 1 1). Regurgitation was seen by
some critics of the time as negative. Nevertheless, by the late 1930s, the machine-tooled
style was replacing the quality craftsmanship evidenced in the earlier part of the century
as the demand for an "uncluttered" look was becoming vogue (9).
37
CHAPTER 6
EARLY CALIFORNIA ARCHITECTS:
THEIR TERRA COTTA BUILDINGS
AND ICONIC STYLES
An architect was the first person to plan for and last person to give approval to
terra cotta ornamentation in a project. To the architect it was not ornamentation but part
ofthe whole design, without which the building was incomplete. Foremost, the architect
was a visionary. He or she had to imagine a three dimensional space worthy of all that
building demands, fit the edifice into the surrounding area, and develop the plan with
client satisfaction, keeping in mind it would last many years past his or her own lifetime.
California drew the best architects to the West Coast from the east and Midwest. Many
were unknown when they arrived, yet they left a legacy of terra cotta clad buildings for
generations to come. Of the numerous architects and structures built in California in the
early1900s, this paper will highlight just a few of the most important architects and their
structures on California's coast.
Just as there was not one style an architect used in terra cotta, neither was there
only one utilization. Banks, hotels, theaters, utility and city structures all had terra cotta
ornamentation. Every historical period and style was mimicked: Classical, Romanesque,
Baroque, Gothic, Moorish, Art Deco, Churriqeuresque and Spanish Renaissance were
some of the periods that architects borrowed upon to create in terra cotta. Cultural
iconography, or copying another country's cultural style, became a popular building
mode in the entertainment industry.
38
Although architects in San Francisco used terra cotta on some buildings in the late
1800s, it was not until after the 1906 earthquake that it became widely applied, primarily
because terra cotta was thought to be fireproof (Corbett 36). Willis Polk, Bernard
Maybeck and Julia Morgan were early architects in the city.
Willis Polk designed many existing structures in San Francisco. Heading the
architectural firm of Burnham and Root, and later assuming ownership, Polk was a
forerunner in Beaux-Arts ideals. His famous historic structures include the Merchant's
Exchange Building, 1903, Pacific Gas and Electric Company Station C, 1905-1909, the
Hallidie Building, 1917, and the Kezar Pavilion, 1924 (Corbett 34, 76, 170). His earliest
design served as a prototype for other architects' buildings to follow.
Polk was responsible for the Mills Building restoration after the earthquake.
Originally built in the late 1 800s of steel frame construction and terra cotta, the Mills
Building was one of only three surviving edifices in the downtown area after the 1906
earthquake, pictured in Figure 15, along with the Hayward Building, 1901, and the
Merchant's Exchange, 1903, all designed by Polk (34-36).
39
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Figure 15. Chadwick, H.D., Downtown San Francisco after the 1906 Earthquake.
Center/Top: The Mills Building. 1906. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
23 Oct 2009. <www.wrh.noaa.gov.mtr/cpm/sf_quake.php>.
However, the Mills Building suffered extensive damage from the fires following
the 1906 earthquake. As part of his restoration plan, Polk added more terra cotta, as the
"fireproof substance was believed to be insurance against another such disaster (Corbett
36, Henry 11). Polk's influence from the Chicago School of Architecture is visible in the
Richardson-Romanesque structure ofthe Mills Building, and the Classicism of the
Merchant's Exchange (Reilly, Swig). Polk was a major contributor in building the city of
San Francisco, and he was in good company.
Bernard Maybeck, Polk's colleague, moved to Berkeley and produced many
rustic buildings there before opening an office in San Francisco (Longstreth 355). He was
considered a dreamer, and his work exemplified it when he designed the Palace of the
Fine Arts in the Marina District for the 1915 Panama-International Exhibition.
The colonnades and Greco-Romanesque design are the only remaining structure from the
extravaganza of the "World's Fair."
40
Maybeck hired a young woman who would later change the face of architecture.
California's pioneer female architect left her imprint on the coastal terra cotta trail. While
Julia Morgan set up her firm's office in the Merchant's Exchange Building in 1904, she
had already earned the coveted Parisian stamp of approval from the Beaux-Arts School of
Architecture, in part due to Bernard Maybeck's earlier support (Longstreth 233). Morgan
designed such prominent structures as the reconstructed Fairmont Hotel in 1906, the San
Francisco City and County Hospital's Tubercular Ward, and over 700 other private
residences and civic buildings (255-258).
Morgan travelled south to Los Angeles to design the Herald Examiner Building in
1914 for William Randolph Hearst, and then Hearst's Castle in 1919 along the coast of
San Simeon (McNeill 258). Morgan used art tile extensively in the castle due to her focus
on indigenous materials. Indoor and outdoor pools and exterior domes are covered in art
tile. Terra cotta facades exemplify blending Spanish Revival with European features.
Julia Morgan played an integral role in developing terra cotta architectural structures in
the early 1900s.
41
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3 Jan 2010. <http://cornmons.wikimedia.Org/wiki/File:Hearst_Castle_Casa_Grande_2.jpg>.
Los Angeles, steeped in theater business, was the hub of cultural iconography in
theater palaces. Grauman's Million Dollar Theater at 307 South Broadway, was his first
theater of several in the city (Los Angeles Conservancy). It was designed in the ornate
Churrigueresque style by architect Albert C. Martin and opened in 1918.
42
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5 Jun 2010. <http://www.publicartinla.com/art_buildings/html>.
The theater's terra cotta sculptures surround the exterior and display a Western
cowboy theme: bison heads, Texas longhorns, and pistols, mixed with allegorical figures
and eagles, by Gladding McBean ("Public Art"). They were executed by the famous
sculptor Joseph Mora (Cooper 25, "Public Art"). On the third floor, a band of eight
niches contain terra cotta statues that represent the film industry. Dressed in South Sea,
Renaissance and Medieval costumes, the statues show the many roles people held.
Grauman went on to build several other theaters, notably the iconographie Egyptian and
Chinese Theaters in 1922 (Cooper 60-63).
43
The idea for the Egyptian Theater was birthed in the wake of the 1922 craze of the
discovery of King Tutankhamen's tomb and after construction had already commenced in
a Spanish Revival style (Americancinematheque.com). Architects Meyer and Holler
designed the edifice. Of interesting note was the art tile mural from 1922 found upon
renovation. The mural was covered in paint and tar. A soda fountain called The Pig and
Whistle originally opened up into the Egyptian Theater courtyard. Pictured in Figure 1 8,
the pig may be seen in the tile mural.
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Figure 18. Tallo, Juan. Art Tile from the Egyptian Theater Courtyard. 1922.
American Cinematheque. 24 Apr 2010. <http://www.americancinematheque.com/Egyptian/eghistor.htm>.
The art tile belies the Egyptian theme, and instead reveals the original plan for the
edifice. Many other buildings in the Greater Los Angeles area support the fact that
cultural iconography was a fashionable architectural theme in Los Angeles in the early
1900s.
The flagship United Artists Theater at 933 Broadway, was built in Spanish Gothic
style. Gladding McBean supplied the faux granite in 1927 (Cooper 9). The polychromatic
work was estimated to take "one sculptor two years of constant labor, but scores of
experts finished it in two months" (9).
44
C. Howard Crane designed the building with architects Walker and Eisen. The Gothic
style was chosen to honor Mary Pickford' s love of European castles (Roseman et al. 73).
Theaters were not the only structures clad with terra cotta in Los Angeles in the
first part of the century. Landmark buildings fill the historic core ofthe city. The
previously mentioned Eastern and the Herald Examiner buildings are but two of many
structures existing today.
The Continental Building, built in 1904, was designed by John Parkinson,
architect of both the Los Angeles City Hall and the Coliseum (Los Angeles
Conservancy). In 1906, Parkinson partnered with Edwin Bergstrom to create the
Alexandria Hotel (Cooper 31). The Los Angeles Stock Exchange, 1931, designed in the
Classic Moderne style by Samuel E. Lunden, displays a frieze above the double doors
which are surrounded by leaves in a repeating pattern (54).
Two early utility buildings were the Pacific Electric Building and the Edison
Building. The Pacific Electric Building, also known as the Huntington after the
developer, was built in 1905 by architect Thornton Fitzhugh. This building was home of
the Red Car lines, electric trolley-car transportation throughout the city proper and
adjoining cities to the north, east and south. On the tenth floor, the terra cotta cornices are
a fine example ofthe Beaux-Arts style coupled with Renaissance touches.
The Edison Building was the first fully heated and cooled building in the West.
The Art Deco flair is evidenced in repeating cubic motif along with allegorical characters
sculpted by Merrel Gage in 1931, representing "light, power and hydroelectric power"
(Los Angeles Conservancy; McCaan and Wallach).
45
James T. and David Allison were architects of the Edison, now known as "One Bunker
Hill." The bottom three stories were limestone and the remaining eleven stories were buff
terra cotta curtain-wall construction over steel framing (McCaan and Wallach). A
walking tour of Los Angeles reveals this and hundreds of other buildings with terra cotta
detailing, showing upper crust society's demand for ornamentation ("Walking Tours").
San Diego jumped into the terra cotta building frenzy just prior to 1915 with their
version of the Panama Canal celebration called the California-Panama Exhibition.
Bertram Grosvenor Goodhue, consulting architect, was assisted by Irving J. Gill.
Goodhue designed not only the California Building, but also twenty-six other edifices for
the exposition (San Diego, "Architecture"). Employing the Spanish-Colonial Revival
style, Goodhue had a penchant for the ornate. He was certain that the structures would be
a cohesive grouping, and said of them, "We can't have the biggest fair naturally, but we're
going to have the most distinctive architecturally and horticulturally that was ever built"
(San Diego, "Notes"). What remains is confirmation that Goodhue kept his word.
However, it is not Goodhue that went down as the most influential architect in
San Diego. Rather, it was his associate, Irving Gill. In 1975, the San Diego Chapter of the
American Institute of Architects names his style "the most significant and lasting
influence on architecture in San Diego" (AIA 14). Gill created several terra cotta clad
structures in San Diego. Gill designed the Bishop's Day School, 1908, and many
southwestern style homes in the area. He developed his own mission style infused with
Mexican tradition using pergolas, arches, and unframed, deep-set windows.
46
Another architect left his imprint in Balboa Park: William Templeton Johnson.
Johnson planned the Fine Arts Gallery in 1926 on the Plaza de Panama in the Spanish
Renaissance style (Schaffer). He incorporated bas-reliefterra cotta sculptures of Spain's
Old World Painters: Velasquez, Murillo and El Greco.
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Figure 19. San Diego Historical Society. Fine Arts Building in Balboa Park. San Diego.
3 May 2010. <http:// bing.com/images>.
Other works by Johnson included similar styles, notably the Spanish-Revival style
on two buildings: the La Jolla Library, built in 1921, and the San Diego Trust and
Savings Bank, built in 1928. His fascination with the missions, coupled with a trip to
Spain, influenced his work immensely (Schaffer). Arched doorways and balustrades in
terra cotta are seen on many of his structures.
The architects of the early 1900s bestowed a heritage of buildings along the coast
of California. All of these architects, and many more, were responsible for drawing,
planning, and implementing the terra cotta structures from which we now benefit. The art
form of terra cotta on architecture saw rapid decline after the 1930s as the epoch of hand-
made works were replaced with the epoch of standardized, machine-made terra cotta.
47
CHAPTER 7
THE DECLINE OF ARCHITECTURAL TERRA COTTA
AND THE PRESERVATION OF
AN HISTORICAL ART FORM
In retrospect, the introduction of machine uses in the terra cotta industry unfolded
in what may be viewed as ordered steps. Hand-made items were not replaced entirely by
machines all at once. Instead, each "new" machine was intended to assist in production.
The machines did just that, to the demise ofthe industry. The progression of new
machines was steady, as was the decline in hand-made goods.
The earliest terra cotta production was entirely hand-made. As the demand for art
tile and terra cotta grew, cottage industries became big business. One person creating one
item was no longer a viable way to conduct business. Most steps in terra cotta technique
were still handmade during the early 1900s on the West Coast. Locally inspired themes
were drawn and created in clay by artists. Glazes were hand applied, and some pieces
were fired in primitive kilns.
According to Charles Fearnley, author of Where Have All the Textures Gone?
the machine age set off a chain reaction, bringing design 'austerity" to the limelight
(Fearnley 9). As machines helped humans to produce more, workers in turn demanded
higher pay and better working conditions. The skilled craftsperson was literally replaced
by machines at an economical advantage.
48
Ironically, terra cotta replaced stone carving as it was less expensive and less time
consuming to produce, yet terra cotta production by machine was more economical than
hand-made terra cotta (Fearnley 11). Mechanization not only standardized the product,
but eliminated high costs ofthe skilled artisan (Henry 1).
There were several other trends forming in society by the late 1930s. One of the
trends supported machine-made products over the irregularity of hand-made items
(Fearnley 9). Another trend was to turn away from imitation of materials. This trend was
short-lived, with sheet materials such as laminates, plywood and vinyl replacing hand
ornamentation (11). Soon, however, the streamlined look of glass, steel and concrete
were the manufactured materials of a new era, the sleek look of the International Style
(Tunick 43-44).
The streamlined high-rise was conceptualized in the International Style. Terra
cotta was viewed as an outdated material, in spite of the ability of the skilled worker to
render any look or texture with the clay. Terra cotta's structural strength and fireproof
characteristics were viable reasons to continue using the material, yet terra cotta was still
overlooked. The demand for terra cotta was in decline.
It is common belief that the Great Depression brought about the decline in the use
of architectural terra cotta, summarized by Tunick, 43. While the depression was a
contributing factor to terra cotta production decline, it was the stylistic trend to
Streamline Moderne, brought about by the choice of different materials for that style, and
the preference of machine-made over hand-made that ultimately usurped the terra cotta
business (Kurutz 103).
49
Material choice changed from terra cotta to concrete as early as 1923. Concrete
became a replacement material for what workers in terra cotta could have easily
accomplished. Frank Lloyd Wright, American architect, icon and visionary, invented precast concrete blocks for the Millard House in Pasadena, and used the material again on
several homes, including the repeating patterned exterior of Mayan design on the Ennis
House in 1924 (Gleye 137-138). Wright was using the "new" material before it became
an accepted European movement. The machine age was being ushered in while most
architects and builders were still focused on building with terra cotta. Paradoxically,
machines invented to increase textures in terra cotta assisted in the disappearance in its
use (Fearnley 8-9).
While machine use was a main factor in the fall of the terra cotta business, the
entire business did not fold completely. Gladding Mc Bean, "the company that shaped the
skyline ofthe City by the Bay," produced over 900 buildings during the grand era of terra
cotta from 1900-1930 (Kurutz 131). Their marketing changed dramatically from Beaux-
Arts style of representational art, floral depiction, animals, columns and capitals, and
elaborate geometric patterns, to the "stark functionality" of smooth, curved edges and
clean edges. (131). Replacement and repair of terra cotta has kept one California
company in business: Pacific Coast Building Products, Inc., also known as Gladding
McBean. It survived the many economic swings in California and the nation by
diversifying with terra cotta products. Historic preservation is now the focus of the only
surviving company from the period on the West Coast.
50
Historie preservation of architectural terra cotta is another marker attesting to the
complexity and value of the period art form and the necessity for continuance ofthe
business. A host of historic preservation groups work in concert to preserve sites.
National Trust for Historic Preservation addresses concerns of architectural interest to
California's cities. The California Historical Society and the California Preservation
Foundation are two more groups working for architectural preservation. In San Francisco,
the San Francisco Heritage and San Francisco Museum and Historical Society work to
preserve buildings. Friends of Terra Cotta, also based in San Francisco, maintain a
reference website for the avid terra cotta enthusiast. The Los Angeles Conservancy and
many other groups work to preserve historic buildings from dilapidation and/or razing.
The need for preservation is based upon several factors. Destruction of terra cotta
faience was often caused by poor design and installation (Berryman and Tindall 13).
Water damage created anchoring system failures as well as cracks, crazing, and/or joint
failure (13). Poor maintenance was another contributing factor, with the culprit of
deterioration sometimes found in chemical cleaning solutions (16).
51
Conclusion
The art form of architectural terra cotta on the West Coast came in full force
during the early 1900s. The extensive use ofterra cotta and the importance of industry
development establish it as a chief architectural element during the period. The decline
in use of terra cotta came as a result of mechanization. Machines created a streamlined
effect and increased production, yet nearly eliminated the individual clay worker.
Widespread use of concrete became the replacement material of choice as the 1930s
concluded. Hand-made items became rarer because of machines. The decline of terra
cotta use was a direct result of the Machine Age.
WORKS CITED
53
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Finley, Elizabeth Navas. "Terra Cotta: It's the Embellishment that makes S.F. Buildings
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Gleye, Paul. The Architecture of Los Angeles. Los Angeles Conservancy.
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Henry, Margaret. Bay Area Brick and Terra Cotta from 1849 to 1976.
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Irwin, Mark, John Miller and Susan Richey. "Broadway Historical Theater District;
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APPENDIX A
GLADDING MCBEAN ORDER #1051
60
¦¦¦ARCHITECTURAL TERRA COTTA^RDER.
"4
fcJMiliiiflgr^Käirie and Location
TOUTED STACTS POST OPPIOB, SAHTA BABBAHA, CAl,
' J0*nér—
Oseax Wenderoth, Supervising Areniteet
Architect—¦
Contractor—
Ship to—
BOgene Schüler, Santa Baafcagar, CaI.
. .
'For this contract a minimum carload is
l8
The freight rate per ton is $6.00
-
tons. "
Prepaid? YeB
Height of Building—
Tiro St ori ß ß
Terra Cotta commences at— J
BxtcrJor. Bed Mould.! and Corona te
Terra Cotta terminates at— )
Main Corniee, also Interior work as a&OTO.
When required—
August 1,1913
/^EXTERIOR
M3o<U) Sta I03M7
Are full-sized details to be furnished?
?ßß
VCUSO
ReA Std.
I O 35- 7 t
Vjtttouj ·,
Are photos of the enriched work required? Ye S
*Finish and Color?
ßU\e\V\crt
Mat enamel and polychrome
?Is the surface to be smooth or tooled?
iOtbM
\ NTERlQR
3mootu
*If tooled how many lines to the inch?
•Shall we allow 3/1d inch for mortar joints? 3/l6*'
*Are raised joints required?
See details
1 ejttepl,
sVnelñL
u->V«¿U cvr«.
Cs tie» e<v^<
^eVVouu
Are lintel joints vertical or radial?
IOtbM
to/-, V 5 to û-lazelieet
Can slip sills be used ? Do we set in place?
Ne
Is the work to-be crated or shipped loose?
Loose
Estimated weight uncrated.
63 tons
Who furnishes the brick?
Gladding, HcBean & Co.
Color of brick?
Grey
Size of brick and thickness mortar joints?
Are brick schedules or details required?
* THIS IHFeHMATtOK MUÂT BE BCITT WfTH THE FlRTT OlUWIMCM.
Jos pò. ; jtÖjgSjt
GLADDING. McBEAN & CO.
San Francisco, CaL. Jany. 13, 19^3
1^HK
APPENDIX B
GLADDING MCBEAN TROPICO
DIVISION ORDERS
1926-1929
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