Accessories: Applying taste to the utilitarian
by Joseph A. Taylor
Back in the 1920s when decorative bathroom tiles were first being promoted in the United States, tile makers that offered matching accessories to their ware had a distinct advantage over their competitors. These fixtures included soap dishes, hand grabs, toothbrush and tumbler holders, paper and sponge holders, robe hooks, towel bars and sockets, even lighting fixtures. Normally these accessories would match the wall tiles in glaze color; less commonly a decorative design element would be added to enhance the appeal.
Ernest Batchelder, whose initial exposure to tile making came when he taught at the Handicraft Guild in Minneapolis for several consecutive summers during the first decade of the 20th century, came to this realization in the early 1920s when he was well established as a tile manufacturer in Los Angeles. In his 1923 “Catalog of Handmade Tiles” he featured seven different accessories (Nos.616-622), all in modular sizes (3x6, 6x6, 6x12) to fit, then glazed and decorated to match his surrounding field tile and trim.
In 1928 architect Carl A. Gage designed a 13,000 sq. ft. residence for William Goodfellow, a successful dry goods merchant, for the lakeside property at 3537 Zenith Avenue South in Minneapolis. No doubt impressed with Batchelder’s smartly coordinated accessories, the architect specified the handmade California tiles for two of the house’s eleven bathrooms, both for the floors and walls, complemented by a number of the matching fixtures.
Mr. Goodfellow, who sold his dry goods business in 1904 to George Dayton, founder of today’s Target, enjoyed his home adjacent to Lake Calhoun, which he called “West Winds.” Designed in a combination of 16th century English styles including Tudor and Gothic Revival, the home was perfectly suited for the rustic Batchelder bathroom tiles. When Goodfellow died in 1944, he donated his home and property to the Girl Scouts, but within ten years the house was back in private hands. Richard Cornelius, who pioneered beverage dispensing equipment, occupied the property until 1976 when inventor Earl Bakken, co-founder of Medtronic, purchased it to house his collection of books and electrical devices. By 1999 the building had doubled in size and today is known as The Bakken, a one-of-a-kind museum exploring the mysteries of our electrical world.
Special thanks to Brad Benn for his photography and to Chris Olson at The Bakken.
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