So where did the ubiquitous fireplace get its name, to what does the name refer, and how do you know if you’ve got one?
Ernest Batchelder was an artist and educator who became a leader in the American Arts and Crafts movement, and a prominent member of the Southern California arts and cultural community. In 1909 he built a kiln at his Pasadena residence and began the business of creating hand-crafted art tiles, which in a short time became hugely popular.
Not unlike Thomas Edison, who not only was smart enough to invent the light bulb but had the sufficient business acumen to market it, Batchelder was brilliant at marketing his beautiful tiles. His business quickly transformed from a backyard hobby to a building phenomena, spreading like wildfire throughout the west coast and ultimately the country. He offered his goods though a fireplace catalog, and builders jumped at his well-crafted product.
The website Tile Nut has put the original Batchelder tile catalog online making it possible to look through many of Batchelder’s specific mantle designs and tile configurations.
In a world where home buyers are quickly reshaping kitchens, bathrooms and other parts of a home into a more modern aesthetic, the tile work of Ernest Batchelder and his fireplaces have stood the test of time. If you’ve got one enjoy it, don’t paint it, and make sure your Realtor prominently features it when you sell!
As with any claim you make about your home, do all you can to ensure you really do have a Batchelder fireplace before making that claim. There are numerous sites out there that show samples of his tile; below are two links I’ve found helpful in learning about Batchelder tile.