Rookwood Pottery Company
Original Rookwood Pottery building in 2011
|Location:||Celestial and Rookwood Pl., Cincinnati, Ohio|
|Architect:||H. Neill Wilson (and later expanded)|
|Added to NRHP:||December 05, 1972|
Rookwood Pottery is an American ceramics company now located in the Over-the-Rhine neighborhood in Cincinnati, Ohio. Founded in 1880, and successful until the Great Depression, production has been intermittent and at a low level since 1967, though there was a change of ownership in 2006, and expansion is planned.
Early years and expansion 
Maria Longworth Nichols Storer founded Rookwood Pottery in 1880 as a result of being inspired by what she saw at the Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia. The inspirational works included Japanese ceramics and French pottery with under-glaze decoration. The first Rookwood Pottery was located in a renovated school house on Eastern Avenue which had been purchased by Maria's father at a sheriff's sale in March, 1880. Mrs. Storer named it Rookwood, after her father's country estate near the city. The first ware came from the kiln on Thanksgiving Day of that year. Through years of experimentation with glazes and kiln temperatures, Rookwood pottery became the ultimate in American art pottery--pottery designed to be at least as decorative as it is useful.
Each era of Rookwood work has its own unique character:
The earliest work is relief-worked on colored clay, in red, pinks, greys and sage or olive greens. Some were gilt, or had stamped patterns, and some were carved. Often these were painted or otherwise decorated by the purchaser of the "greenware" (unfinished piece), a precursor to today's do-it-yourself movement. However, such personally-decorated pieces are not usually considered Rookwood for purposes of sale or valuation.
After this period, Storer sought a "standard" look for Rookwood, and developed the "Standard Glaze," a yellow tined, high gloss, clear glaze often used over leaf or flower motifs. A series of portraits - often of generic American Indian characters or certain historical figures – was also produced using the Standard Glaze. A variant on the Standard Glaze was the less-common but very collectible "tiger eye" which appears only on a red clay base. Tiger Eye produces a golden shimmer deep within the glaze; however it was unpredictable and it is not clear whether it was abandoned for reasons of chemistry or popularity.
In 1894, Rookwood introduced three glazes: "Iris" a remarkably clear, colorless glaze; "Sea Green" which was clear but green tinted and "Aerial Blue" which was clear but blue tinted. The latter glaze was produced for just one year, while the two former glazes were used for more than a decade.
With increased interest in the American Arts & Crafts Movement, there was a need for a matt glaze which could be used over under-glaze decoration (largely floral and scenic). Rookwood responded in 1904 with the introduction of the "Vellum" glaze which presented a matt surface but through which could be seen the slightly frosted appearing decoration beneath.
One of the last glaze lines of Rookwood was "Ombroso", not used until after 1910. Ombroso, used on cut or incised pottery, is a brown or black matte glaze.
In 1902, Rookwood added architectural pottery to its portfolio. Under the direction of William Watts Taylor, this division rapidly gained national and international acclaim. Many of the flat pieces were used around fireplaces in homes in Greater Cincinnati and surrounding areas, while custom installations found their places in grand homes, hotels, and public spaces. Even today, Rookwood tiles decorate Carew Tower, Union Terminal (Cincinnati) and Dixie Terminal in Cincinnati, as well as the Rathskeller Room in The Seelbach Hilton in Louisville, Ky. In New York, the Vanderbilt Hotel, Grand Central Station, Lord and Taylor and several subway stops feature Rookwood tile designs.
The 1920s were highly prosperous years for Rookwood. The pottery employed about 200 workers and welcomed almost 5,000 visitors to the Mount Adams business each year. Nearly every Cincinnati bride had a piece of Rookwood pottery among her wedding gifts. Even Mark Twain, who admittedly was not an art collector, visited the pottery and went on a shopping spree.
Surviving the Great Depression 
The company was hit hard by the Great Depression. Art pottery became a low priority for available cash and architects couldn’t afford Rookwood tiles and mantels. Mass production potteries churned out cheap look-alikes. By 1934 the company showed its first loss, and by 1936 was operating an average of just one week a month. On April 17, 1941, it filed for bankruptcy. Through these tough times, ownership of the company changed hands but the heart of the company, the Rookwood artists, remained and high quality pieces still left the Rookwood studios.
In 1959 Rookwood was purchased by the Herschede Clock Company and production moved to Starkville, Mississippi. Unable to recover from the losses experienced during the Great Depression, production ceased in 1967.
By 1982, Rookwood was in negotiations to be sold to overseas manufacturers. Michigan dentist and art pottery collector, Dr. Arthur Townley used his life savings to purchase all of the remaining Rookwood assets. Throughout his tenure as Rookwood’s owner, Dr. Townley produced small quantities of pieces to maintain original trademarks. He continuously sought the means to return the company to its historic location and artistic prestige.
Rookwood today 
Dr. Townley refused offers to sell Rookwood for over two decades, but eventually collaborated with Cincinnati investors in 2004 to move the company back to Cincinnati.
In July 2006, after approximately one year of negotiations, The Rookwood Pottery Company entered into a contract to acquire all of the remaining assets of the original Rookwood Pottery from Dr. Townley. These assets include, among other things; the trademarks, more than 3,000 original molds and hundreds of glaze recipes used by the original Rookwood Pottery Company.
On July 10, 2006, the Rookwood Pottery Company re-established a presence in Cincinnati. There is a new production studio in the historic Over-the-Rhine neighborhood of Cincinnati. The company has since produced a limited number of art pottery pieces such as the commemorative plaque in honor of the re-dedication of Fountain Square (October, 2006) and a beer stein in cooperation with Christian Moerlein Brewing Co. to commemorate the annual Bockfest (February, 2007).
Today, the Rookwood building has become an office park with part of the building being used as the Rookwood Restaurant and Bar. Restaurant guests can be seated inside one of the three brick kilns that was used to produce the pottery.
- "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. 2008-04-15.
- Clark, S. J. (1912). "Cincinnati, the Queen City, 1788-1912, Volume 2". The S. J. Clarke Publishing Company. p. 458. Retrieved 2013-05-20.
- Zimmeth, Khristi S. (Jun 1, 2006). "Insiders' Guide Fun With the Family Ohio: Hundreds of Ideas For Day Trips With The Kids". Globe Pequot. p. 134. Retrieved 2013-05-09.
- The new studio is at .
- Zimmeth, Khristi S. (Jun 1, 2006). "Insiders' Guide Fun With the Family Ohio: Hundreds of Ideas For Day Trips With The Kids". Globe Pequot. p. 130. Retrieved 2013-05-09.