September 15, 2023
Terra Cotta in Sioux City
Treasure hunting for tiled buildings is a hobby for Layl and Josh as they travel. On our recent trip to Sioux City, Iowa Josh was riding his bike around the city and found the Woodbury County courthouse built in 1916 by W L Steele Architect and Purcell and Elmslie Associate Architect. It was a stunning terra cotta facade building. Purcell and Elmslie are very famous for their use of terra cotta in many of their buildings. One was the Merchants National Bank Winona, Minnesota in 1912
You can find these amazing architectural gems in cities all across the country and around the world. They are great historical symbols of what community builders, businesses and governments were trying to project to their patrons and passers-by of their buildings. The craftsmanship is unparalleled. What is stunning is how big they are at the same time are hiding in plain sight as most of us pass by them everyday in our cars, bikes and walking.
From Wikipedia - William Gray Purcell (July 2, 1880 – April 11, 1965) was a Prairie School architect in the Midwestern United States. He partnered with George Grant Elmslie, and briefly with George Feick. The firm of Purcell & Elmslie produced designs for buildings in twenty-two states, Australia, and China. The firm had offices in Minneapolis, Minnesota; Chicago, Illinois; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; and Portland, Oregon.
One of the key components of American architecture and the use of ceramic tile in the early 20th century was the glorification of working man, woman and child. They were projecting common people not royalty and high society. Scenes depicting symbolizing regular people and the American myths they wanted to project. One of the Arts & Crafts period design elements was allowing the natural materials to be showcased, stylized flora and fauna were very common. It was one way to break away from European design and create an American aesthetic.
The details are stunning. These tiles have been in the elements for over a hundred years and look like they were just installed.
Don't forget to look up. Architects of the early 20th century made lots of amazing detailed tiles on the upper floors of skyscrapers all the time.
George Elmslie. had worked with Louis Sullivan on The National Farmers' Bank of Owatonna, Minnesota, United States, is a historic bank building designed by Louis Sullivan, Mr. Elmsie created the decorative elements.
From Wikipedia - George Grant Elmslie (February 20, 1869 – April 23, 1952) was a Scottish-born American Prairie School architect whose works are is mostly found in the Midwestern United States. He worked with Louis Sullivan and later with William Gray Purcell as a partner in the firm Purcell & Elmslie.