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Subject: Chicago Area Conservation Group (CACG)

Chicago Area Conservation Group (CACG)

From: Craig Deller <craig1708>
Date: Tuesday, November 10, 1998
The Restoration of the Bethesda Tile Ceiling in Central Park
Peter Champe, Director of Architectural Conservation and Sculpture
for the Central Park Conservancy in New York City
Art Institute of Chicago
November 24 1998
6 PM

Until 1983, the Terrace Arcade behind Central Park's Bethesda
Fountain flaunted an ornate 19th-century encaustic ceramic tile
ceiling designed by Jacob Wrey Mould and manufactured by the Minton
Company of Stoke-on-Trent, England.  With its intricate floral and
geometric motifs in vivid hues of maroon, cobalt and yellow, the
ceiling was central to Olmsted's visual and architectural aesthetic.
The ingenious system of the original tile suspension consisted of
bronze bolts slotted into the back of each of the 15,876 tiles that
fastened to 49 cast and wrought iron panels.  An examination of the
condition of the panels in 1982 revealed that after 110 years of
useful service, the corrosion-expansion of the iron was beginning to
pull the bolts out of the backs of the tiles, resulting in a
hazardous situation.  The 49 panels, each weighing nearly a ton,
were taken down from the ceiling and were stored for 14 years
awaiting reinstallation.  Now, with grants from the National
Endowment for the Arts and the Getty Foundation, the Central Park
Conservancy is examining methods to carry out a restoration and
reinstallation of the tile ceiling. The goal of the current phase of
the restoration project, which was completed in April 1998, is to
restore and install two panels into the ceiling employing the newly
designed attachment system. Only after this system has been tested
and project funding is secured will we proceed to restore the
remaining 47 panels.

It is estimated that as many as 20% or 3,000 of the original 15,876
tiles will have to be replaced due to damage.  In developing the
scope and budget for the project, the question arose as to the
historical imperative of replacing tiles with encaustic
reproductions if a tile of identical appearance yet significantly
lower cost can be achieved through a conventional glaze method (the
encaustic process employs an involved technique of inlaying clay
slips of various colors to form the ceramic design). Many of the
tiles that have suffered damage but do not require replacement will
be restored using methods and materials now being tested. The
results of accelerated aging and freeze-thaw testing of various tile
repair materials will be presented.

Please join us in Price Auditorium at the Art Institute of Chicago,
111 South Michigan Ave for the November Meeting of the Chicago Area
Conservation Group. Please enter by the main Michigan Ave entrance
and proceed to the lower level to the Kraft Center to find Price

                  Conservation DistList Instance 12:43
                Distributed: Thursday, November 12, 1998
                       Message Id: cdl-12-43-015
Received on Tuesday, 10 November, 1998

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