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Minton tile floors are found in three rooms within the Eisenhower Executive Office Building (EEOB). Manufactured by the Minton Tile Company in Stoke-on-Trent, England, the tiles were also used to surround many of the original fireplace hearths. The tiled floors are found in the following rooms:
Minton tiles are called "encaustic tiles", meaning that the patterns and color in the tile are encased in the depth of the tile. Encaustic tiles are unique because their decorative designs are not glazed on the surface, but are inlaid patterns created during the manufacturing process. The process pours colored slips (liquid clay) into deep molded patterns. When fired, the tiles are durable and prevent the loss of color and design over the years. As a result, very few of these tiles have had to be replaced at the EEOB.
Toward the end of the nineteenth century white encaustic tiles with a black or gold design were common, as were tiles with complicated colored patterns of white, black, gold, pink, green and blue. Encaustic tiles were decorated with traditional as well as original designs. Most major tile manufacturers sold many of the same pre-formed encaustic floor tile patterns through catalogues. These tiles were produced in a variety of sizes, mostly square or octagonal in shape, and almost any design could be custom-made for a special purpose or to fit a particular space.
In 1876 the Department of State Library was completed and the first Minton tile floor was installed. Architect Alfred B. Mullett designed the architecture and William McPherson, a Boston painter and decorator, designed the interior decoration. To date, no formal records have been found to verify who was the actual designer of the floor pattern.
Records show that around 1877 Richard Ezdorf, the buildings chief draftsman with the Supervising Architect of the Treasury, signed a design for the decorative tile floor in the Navy Library. The actual floor that was installed varies a bit from Ezdorfs design, which may be a result of using Minton Company stock tiles to come as close as possible to his design. The compass design in the center of the floor was installed in 1879 as designed and carries out the nautical theme appropriate to a Navy library.
As the last of the three libraries to be built, the Department of War Library has a less structured floor design than the others in the EEOB. Minton tile was used but has mosaic features and a more severe design. Mosaic butterflies in the center of the floor contrast with the classical tiles along the edges and in the stacks. The designer of the floor has not been determined, but is presumed to be Richard Ezdorf.
The west foyer of the White House had a Minton tile floor installed the 1880s. When this style fell out of fashion, the floor was removed and replaced with marble in 1902.
Minton tiles may also be found at the Smithsonian Institutions Arts and Industry Building and at the U. S. Capitol. Glazed tiles made by Minton were also used for the floor and wall tiles installed in two rest rooms in the Secretary of Wars office suite installed in 1888.
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