Snuggle Up to Fireplaces Surrounded by Wheeling Tile

Photo Provided Decorative Wheeling tiles were often framed to use as wall hangings.

Like many Wheeling residents, I am fortunate to have three beautiful and original fireplaces in my home.

These lovely fireplaces are surrounded by carved and convenient mantels that are the perfect spot for displaying antiques!

Each fireplace is enhanced by decorative wall and floor tiles.

In its heyday, Wheeling manufactured everything from cigars to steel. This hotbed of manufacturing relied on the immigrant workforce and quality handwork that made the name of The Friendly City known around the world.

Wheeling Tile is a good example of a manufacturer that turned out masses of utilitarian and decorative items and stood the test of time.

Located on Jacob Street, between 31st and 33rd streets in South Wheeling, the tile headquarters covered several blocks and produced floor and wall tile in many colors, designs and sizes. Originally a brewery, the tile factory was demolished in 1976.

But the products made at this factory are still evident today. Many homes feature lovely Wheeling Tile hearths and fireplace surrounds. This distinctive glazed tile displays swirls of colors in browns, greens or blues, creating an attractive way to dress up the family mantle.

Other tiles were hand painted or decaled and became decorative wall hangings, like pictures. Commemorative tiles too were produced and were ordered by businesses to mark anniversaries and important successes, or to give or sell as souvenirs.

Wheeling Tile products are a collectible today. Tiles can be found in both round and square shapes, though the six-inch square is the standard size. Many of the tiles were framed in metal, creating a fancy picture look.

Wheeling Tile also sold its ceramic tiles as blanks to be decorated elsewhere so that Wheeling became one of the top names in porcelain tile products.

Today decorative Wheeling tiles can be found for sale at antiques shops or online. Prices are reasonable and might run anywhere from $5 and up, depending on the quality of the design and condition of the tile.

Just flip over the tile and look for the Wheeling mark, stamped on the back. Other marks on the back can include numbers, artist signature, dates and the word “cushion” which stands for a patented process of design.

For those restoring an old home or redecorating a kitchen or bath, several vintage tiles can add a distinctive look when mixed in with new ceramic tile. Or top a small table with tiles and create a one-of-a kind look that is as pretty as it is practical.

Like all decorative art treasures, vintage tiles are a reminder of yesterday. The artisans who created the pottery and painted these tiles were true craftsmen and women whose talent is valued today.

For comments or suggestions on local treasures to be featured in Antique of the Week, Maureen Zambito can be reached via email at zambitomaureen@hotmail.com or by writing in care of this newspaper.

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