The Friends of Terra Cotta has been concerned about the exacerbated condition of the ceramic murals and ornament which surround the tops of the Women's Ward Pavilions at the Landmarked Seaview-Farm Colony Historic District on Staten Island. These remarkable works were produced in Delft, Holland by De Porceleyne Fles (later owned by Joost Thooft & Labouchere), the only remaining manufacturer of Delftware which has been in continuous operation since 1672.

April 13, 1998
Portions of a letter from Bart Verbrugge, Rijswijk, Netherlands
to Susan Tunick, Friends of Terra Cotta:

I knew about the existence of this building from the archives of De Porceleyne Fles factory in Delft I examined in 1982-84 as part of my study of architecture at Delft Technical University. I remember there were some original designs of the tile decorations in the archive, one of which I made a slide picture ... Parts of this important commission were exhibited in the Museum of Kunstnijverheid (Arts and Crafts Museum) in Haarlem in 1910. In an article on this exhibition in the architectural magazine Bouwkundig Weekblad by Jan Fratama this commission is mentioned in extent:

Terra Cotta

'This hospital is composed of 6 pavilions each with a frieze of 100 meters. On behalf of the architect Raymond T. Almirall this important commission had to be carried out in gay colors. This has been achieved; on a background of golden tiles the Renaissance fruit garlands and the life size very naturalistic and strong figures come out very strongly; these figures are taken direct from reality ... The whole is bold, American-like, but not at all mean.'

The technique (sectile) used for Sea View Hospital was introduced at the famous 1900 Paris World Fair. The word sectile is a fantasy-name derived from the Latin: secare (to cut), the divisions are not straight, as with conventional tiles, rather, the tile joints follow the lines of the composition. The material is a strong paste, fired at very high temperature. The technique was especially developed by the technical director of De Porceleyne Fles, a Dutchman named Heinrich Wilhelm Mauser.

Terra Cotta

The technique was used from about 1900 till around 1910. The commission for the Sea View Hospital was therefore one of the last ones ... This commission was achieved through an agent in New York, Mr. A. van der Laan, who worked under the name The Delft Sectile and Importing Co.

I am very pleased to hear that the Friends of Terra Cotta has begun a preservation battle to save these buildings ......


Return To Women's Ward Pavilions

last revised April 19 1998
by David Goldfarb