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Historical Marker unveiled for Robertson Art Tile Company

by Tianna Grosch

Robertson Art Tile Company (RATC), founded in 1890, was honored on August 23rd with an unveiling ceremony of its Historical Marker, at the intersection of S. Pennsylvania Avenue and Green Street, in Morrisville.

To be approved for an Official State Historical Marker, a building must have statewide and national significance that reaches beyond local recognition.

According to the Historical Marker Program Coordinator, Karen Gallee, the site’s nominator, David B. Long, a local historian, pointed out that RATC, “fits this criteria perfectly with its pioneering and innovative hand in the tile industry.”

Though this company isn’t widely known, among its most well-known legacies is perfecting the pure white tile glaze, found today in many bathrooms and hospitals. Robertson’s survived almost 100 continuous years and changed ownership several times.

Throughout its lengthy period producing millions of square feet of ceramic tile, Robertson’s tile-making process often set standards for others to follow.

It was the first tile company to design ceramic mosaic tiles for use in swimming pools and the first to use the single-fire method, which saved time and money.

Robertson’s was also one of the first to incorporate an on-site research lab for quality control. Its products were known as ‘only the best.’

Robertson’s proved its innovative endurance in keeping up with changing times – when the government ordered the company to cease tile production during World War II, it produced grinding wheels until the end of the war when tile was produced again.

Nancy Sherlock of Morrisville Borough explains the tile company’s large local presence. “Robertson’s was the only tile company in the area at the time,” Nancy says. “Almost all Levittown homes installed this tile during the 1950s, so it has a large place in the community.”

Morrisville resident Annie Milionis has done extensive research on how Robertson tiles were used – in Philly and Boston subways, churches, YMCA’s, and in the swimming pool and gymnasium of Syracuse University, just to name a few.

Numerous individuals attended the unveiling ceremony, among them Suzanna Barucco of the Historic Preservation Board; nominator David Long; two former employees of RATC who worked on the clay conveyance lines, Bob and Robyn Kronnagel; and PA State Representative Perry Warren.

“Our heritage is a huge part of who we are and what brought us here,” Rep Warren said at the ceremony. “It’s important to remember and dedicate your history, to remind us where we came from.”

The Historical Marker was erected in close proximity to the company’s original location and represents the large influence it had on the community and tile production.

PHOTO CAP: An old photo of the Robertson Art Tile Company