Spotlight On: Subway Tile
To stand up to the dirt and grime of a bustling, growing city, and to beautify the otherwise gloomy subway tunnels, architects George C. Heins and Christopher Grant LaFarge used a glossy white ceramic tile to protect and decorate the walls of the New York City Subway. By the time the subway system opened in 1904, Victorian concerns regarding hygiene and health had already popularized the use of tile in public buildings, private bathrooms, and kitchens. Not only was tile easy to clean, but Heins and LaFarge knew that it would be durable enough to use in the new subway tunnels. They worked with the Grueby Faience Company of Boston and the Rookwood Pottery Company of Cincinnati to create the tiles that still cover the tunnels today.