Close-up of the tiles on the chimney of Batchelder House. Birds, grapes, blue.
Close-up of the tiles on the chimney of Batchelder House.

Pasadena artist and educator Ernest Batchelder was the tilemaker of the early 20th century. He founded the Batchelder Tile Company in Pasadena in 1909 and designed beautiful, unique terra cotta tiles. He was “a leading designer of the American Arts and Crafts movement.” He was also director of the art department at Throop Polytechnic Institute.

His tile business began with a simple kiln he built in the backyard of his Pasadena home in 1909. The tiles were hand-crafted, detailed, and people loved them. While they weren’t cheap, the tiles were also relatively affordable. They could be found in the homes of the wealthy as well as in the homes of an average-income family. Plus, a Batchelder fireplace would become much more timeless than an ostentatious gilded crown molding.

Ernest Batchelder's former home in Pasadena, California
Ernest Batchelder’s former home in Pasadena.

Due to the popularity of the tiles, the business grew, making it necessary to move the Batchelder Tile Company twice to bigger locations in order to fill the demand. That is until the Depression hit in 1932.

Batchelder tiles continue to be a desired featured in SoCal houses today. Batchelder fireplaces, for example are a selling point on the real-estate market.

Tiled walkway to Batchelder House. Multi-colors, clay tiles.
Tiled walkway to Batchelder House.

Notable Batchelder design projects include the Dutch Chocolate Shop in Los Angeles (which is Los Angeles Historical-Cultural Monument No. 137) and the Hershey Hotel in Hershey, Penn. His house in Pasadena is on the National Register of Historic Places.

If you’d like to see images of Batchelder’s tiles in fireplaces, walkways, a fountain, and a wishing well, check out this Pinterest board. This article was in the LA Times in October 2018: Grandson of noted Pasadena tilemaker Batchelder visits pristine LCF fireplace with an uncertain fate. You can also read this article from SmithsonianMag.com: Saving Los Angeles’ Batchelder Tile.


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