Minton Tile Ceiling at Bethesda Terrace
The Minton tile ceiling in the arcade of Bethesda Terrace was created in the 1860s. It is one of the Park's main architectural features. A grand staircase connects the Mall to the subterranean arcade. Made up of 49 panels, the ceiling features almost 16,000 elaborately patterned encaustic tiles, handmade by England’s renowned Minton and Company.
Not fully indoors or outdoors, the arcade was conceived as an open-air reception hall that would provide visitors with shelter from rain and heat. The highlight of the arcade is the magnificent Minton Tile ceiling designed by British-born architect and designer, Jacob Wrey Mould, who also conceived of the decorative carvings throughout the Terrace.
Encaustic tiles, originally created to cover floors, are made of individual colored clays pressed and fired into the tile to form the design. The arcade at Bethesda Terrace is the only place in the world where these Minton tiles are used for a ceiling. The niches that flank the walls of the arcade are covered with trompe l'oeil paintings that resemble the colored stone inlay design that was never completed.
Over the decades, the 50-ton ceiling deteriorated. In 1983, the tile panels were removed and placed in storage because of extensive damage. The restoration of the ceiling hinged on necessary funding, which the Conservancy obtained by 2004. Thanks to generous individuals and foundations, the Conservancy was able to accomplish this challenging restoration.
Reopened in March 2007, the tile ceiling reﬂects the light coming from Bethesda Terrace and the Mall and transforms the arcade from a dark passageway to a glorious jewel box of pattern, color, and light.