5/2/2013 - How One Family Built America's Public Palaces
by Susan Stamberg
A Washington, D.C., museum wants you to spend some time looking up -- to see soaring, vaulted tile ceilings built by a father-son team who left their mark on some of America's most important public spaces.
These ceilings grace landmarks that include state capitols, Grand Central Terminal and Carnegie Hall -- as well as some more ordinary buildings. One of them is Engine No. 3, a small brick firehouse not far from the U.S. Capitol -- where, yes, they still slide down one of those shiny brass poles. It's one of the oldest fire stations in the District of Columbia.
Michael Freeman/National Building Museum
Built in 1916, the firehouse has bright red doors, gleaming trucks and a narrow, gently arched ceiling over the entryway. The underside of the arch is lined with white tiles arranged in a ziggy-zaggy herringbone pattern.
Firefighter Andre Burns is less than impressed. But that little entryway ceiling has some distinctive touches -- the tiles, the pattern -- that are being noticed with no little respect at the nearby National Building Museum.
There, the exhibition Palaces for the People: Guastavino and America's Great Public Spaces is an impressive display. Photographs, diagrams, drawings and scale models show the beauty and breadth of the work of the Guastavino family -- some one-thousand vaults and domes and ceilings in 40 states.