I had a few minutes before my train in Philly, and I was walking down Chestnut Street, and suddenly my eyes fell upon this building. I looked up at the graceful arched doorway, and there were mosaics! I recognized the work of Mercer’s Moravian Tileworks, and wondered how they got to this street. The building houses a CVS, but when I went across the street, I could make out an original sign for Reed’s, set into mosaic medallions at the the top of the building. Mosaic spotting is one of my favorite activities.
When I got home, I did a search, and discovered it was the Jacob Reed’s Sons Building, built for a clothier in 1903 by local architect William Lightfoot Price. The tiles are indeed by Mercer, and the ones inside the arch represent crafts related to clothing, including spinning and weaving. Mercer was a great reviver of handmade tile in the United States, and visiting his home, Fonthill, for the first time was quite an experience. Picture a cement castle, lined with tiles from all over the world, plus samples of just about every tile line Moravian Tileworks produced.
Then I looked up William Price, and discovered that he was the founder of the Rose Valley Association, just outside of Media, PA. I had heard of this utopian community, but didn’t expect to stumble across a connection while among the many athletic shoe stores of Chestnut Street. Rose Valley was modeled after William Morris’s Arts & Crafts Movement ideals. The houses are still there, and someday I want to see them.
It’s really beautiful. They don’t build buildings like that anymore. Thanks for the pictures and the stories!