In continuing with the Bucks County series, I’d like to share some more on Henry Chapman Mercer. The first of his buildings in Bucks County was the Moravian Pottery and Tile Works, built to begin construction of Mercer’s tile designs. He was inspired greatly by the Arts and Crafts movement that was occurring at the turn of the century and aided in its spread by his recreation of early Pennsylvanian pottery techniques.
Mercer’s inspiration for the name of his factory came from his collection of Moravian stove plates. The building is located on the same property as Fonthill, Mercer’s home, and is only a short distance from the Mercer Museum. His inspiration for the designs of the tiles came from the flora and fauna of Pennsylvania.
Looking at the actual building, it is made of reinforced concrete and is shaped in a large U. At 2 1/2 stories tall, measuring at approximately 100 feet in height, this factory largely resembles the California Mission Church. This design choice demonstrates the use of reinforced concrete for industrial purposes but also Mercer’s personal belief that good art came from religious faith. Below are photographs of the original building!
Unfortunately, this building burned down, but thankfully was rebuilt between 1911 and 1912. Now, it is owned by the Bucks County Parks and Recreation Department. It stands as a National Historic Landmark, where it functions as a “working history” museum, meaning it is still in use as a factory but also functions as a museum. Tiles are produced in a similar fashion to how they were produced from 1898 to 1930, when Mercer oversaw production.
You can take a self-guided tour through the museum to view displays and original installations and learn about current tile production. After touring the museum, you are able to purchase individual tiles and mosaics, some of which are reissues of original designs! If you aspire to be an artisan (no matter the level of skill possessed), you can take classes and workshops to learn how to make handmade tiles, paint them, and use them to create beautiful mosaics.
I’ve been thoroughly enjoying learning more about Henry Chapman Mercer and the three local museums that I fondly remember visiting as a child. Be on the lookout next week for information on the third of these, the Mercer Museum! Have a great week! 🙂