Stories from the Big House

14 May 2012

The House Across the Street

The Julius W. Hegeler I Home
Across the street from the Hegeler Carus Mansion in LaSalle, Illinois, stands the Julius W. Hegeler I Home designed 1904 by Pond and Pond, an acclaimed Chicago architectural firm.

The Julius W. Hegeler I Home was built for the oldest son of Edward and Camilla Hegeler.  

The fine woodwork in the entrance
of the Julius W. Hegeler I Home
The home has a distinctive English Arts and Crafts look about its brick exterior that continues inside with its spacious rooms, grand fireplaces, luxurious carved wooden staircases and fine paneling throughout.

Tile from an upstairs room
Tiles around several of the fireplaces in the Julius W. Hegeler I Home look deceptively like tiles produced by William De Morgan.
They are not!

Tile in the Dining Room
This opinion comes from Claire Longworth, Curator, De Morgan Centre, London, who after looking at images of the tiles, suggested we look at the Arts and Crafts tiles of Maw & Co. or Pilkington, both noted English tile producers of the time.
Further more, she comments, that while the tiles look to be British production, we should not rule out Belgian and even American made tiles of the period. Seems like “everyone” active in the tile business around 1900-1910 was making them in the De Morgan style or in related Arts and Crafts patterns.

Tile in the Living Room Fireplace
Further research is required and will be presented here as it happens.  Of course the most rewarding and easiest but also the most costly research route is to remove the tiles and look at their backs for possible makers marks or the name of the manufacturer. At the same time the tiles could be cleaned, conserved, and their foundation restructured and restored as needed.

Tile from a first floor fireplace
The bright red floral and the blue-green-yellow vines are based on the British Arts and Crafts styles popularized by William De Morgan (1839-1917), one of several genius designers active in the later 19th century in England. De Morgan, an English potter born in London, into a distinguished family, designed tiles, furniture and stained glass windows for his good friend, William Morris, but it is his own experimentation, mostly shortly after 1873. His interest in Persian and Hispano-Moresque patterns and glazing techniques led him to rediscover an ancient glazing technique known as luster, characterized by its highly reflective, metallic surface. This breakthrough in technology quickly inspired others, but brought De Morgan great fame with little financial success.
Moving his production facility, in 1888, from Merton Abbey to Fulham, De Morgan had the facilities to experiment with many techniques, especially the development of seemingly translucent intensely deep colors.  These brought him national, then international recognition within the Arts and Crafts Movement, but financial success remained elusive.
He stopped production of his tiles in 1904 and officially closed his factory in 1906, then selling it in 1907 to the Passenger Brothers, who had been his leading painters. At the time De Morgan wrote, “All my life I have been trying to make beautiful things and now that I can make them nobody wants them.”

Tiles in and 18th century style.
In an upstairs room of the Julius W. Hegeler House there is one fireplace surround with what look like 18th century Dutch blue and white tiles, each with a story telling scene. These, too, are most probably late 19th century or early 20th century tiles made to look like Dutch tiles.  Tiles of this type and style were very popular in Arts and Crafts homes that featured an English “country” look.  The Julius W. Hegeler House is one of these. 

More research into the tile in the Julius W. Hegeler House will follow and hopefully will eventually lead to a much clearer understanding of the use of tiles in this House and others throughout the Midwest.

The Hegeler Carus Foundation is presently raising funds to restore the Julius W. Hegeler I Home to its former glory and utilize it as a center for community arts and education.

All content contributed by Rolf Achilles.
Photographs by Kelly Klobucher of the Hegeler Carus Foundation.

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