Claycraft Potteries’ decorative tiles are highly sought-after remnants of the California pottery productions that epitomized the Spanish/Mexican Revival designs in the 1920s and 1930s. The pottery operated from 1921 to 1939 at 3101 San Fernando Road, Los Angeles, about 20 miles south of the San Fernando Mission. The section written on Claycraft by Joseph A Taylor in California Tile: The Golden Era 1910 – 1940 credits George Robertson for much of the design work.
This bookend pair by Claycraft depicts the most iconic features of the Southern California Missions, San Juan Capistrano’s Bell Wall and San Fernando Rey de Espana’s Fountain. These Missions were rescued and restored during the early part of the 20th century and by the mid-1920s were significant tourist destinations.
San Juan Capistrano is the third mission in the string of missions from San Diego to Sonoma, California. It is internationally known for the “Return of the Swallows” on St. Joseph’s Day in March each year. The bookend shows the bell wall where the bells were hung after the December 8, 1812 earthquake which killed 40 Native Americans as the great stone church collapsed. Today the grounds of the mission are beautifully landscaped and it is one of the most visited sites in California. You can watch the bells being rung to celebrate the swallow’s return by clicking here.
San Fernando Rey de Espana Mission is located in the northern section of Los Angeles‘ San Fernando Valley. It is an active Catholic Church today. The fountain seen on the bookend is probably the fountain from the central courtyard. There are two fountains on the property and it is difficult to determine from the old photographs which fountain is represented here. Both fountains were photographed by Henry F. Withey during the 1936 Historic American Buildings Survey.
There is no Claycraft mark on these bookends yet they are easily recognizable. This particular pair have “HENRY KRIER, TILE CONTRACTOR, MONROVIA” impressed into the clay. According to Taylor “…. Claycraft Tiles were promoted successfully through established tile contractors and design showrooms….” So it makes sense that Henry Krier, a noted designer and installer of decorative tile works in southern California, would have had one or more of these sets of bookends available in his Monrovia showroom or would have used them as promotional gifts. The full article, “The Legacy of Henry Krier: A Contractor In Contrasts” by Lynn A. Downey, in the July-September 1989 issue of FLASH POINT, The Quarterly Bulletin of the Tile Heritage Foundation is available from the Tile Heritage Foundation.