Home for a Movement

The Ernest A. Batchelder House

In the early 20th century, American Arts & Crafts Movement leader Ernest A. Batchelder designed and built the Batchelder House, a bungalow overlooking Pasadena’s Arroyo Seco that would quickly become an important regional cultural hub. It was here that Batchelder constructed his kiln and began to create immensely popular art tiles, engobe-fired works that featured a variety of themes including flora and fauna (especially peacocks), Mayan and Byzantine themes, and geometric patterns. Batchelder tiles were a favorite choice for decorators and designers of the day, appearing frequently in New York City apartment lobbies as well as businesses and homes throughout the country.

Exterior view of the Batchelder House, 1981

For his part, Batchelder not only set up shop in Pasadena, but became an integral part of the city’s heritage. Employed as an instructor at Throop Polytechnic Institute (the predecessor of California Institute of Technology), he welcomed students to his home and to participate in his growing business. As architectural historian Robert Winter noted in his essay for California Tile – The Golden Era 1910-1940, “As is easily seen in examining the variety of the designs, Batchelder had other hands besides Branham’s in the design of his tiles—almost from the beginning.” One of these sets of hands belonged to Batchelder’s student Anne Harnett, who was “chiefly responsible for the wonderful panels of scenes from Holland that were once the pride of the Dutch Chocolate Shop (1914) on Sixth Street in downtown Los Angeles.”

In addition to training and teaching new generations, Batchelder served on the board of the Pasadena Playhouse, was a member of the Pasadena Society of Artists, and was involved in founding the Pasadena Art Institute (today the Norton Simon Museum). In 2016, the Pasadena Museum of History opened the retrospective Batchelder: Tilemaker dedicated to the designer’s career and legacy.

Watch the Pasadena Museum of History's video
House of the Green Rabbit: The Ernest A. Batchelder Bungalow: