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What is Adamantile? A look at Mr. Bellingrath’s tile company

The bold mosaic tile pattern used on the Dining Porch was also used in the entrance lobby of Mobile’s Saenger Theatre (below), completed in 1927.
The bold mosaic Adamantile pattern used on the Dining Porch was also used in the entrance lobby of Mobile’s Saenger Theatre (below), completed in 1927.

Saenger2By Tom McGehee, Museum Director of the Bellingrath Home

Although Coca-Cola is synonymous with Walter D. Bellingrath, many have forgotten that in 1917 he also became the owner of the National Mosaic Tile Company in Mobile.

The company produced Adamantile. The distinctive patterns were created when  colored concrete was poured into design moulds and then compressed into 7″ square tiles.

Visitors to the Bellingrath Home see examples of this product throughout the floors of the kitchen areas and porches on the first floor.

was used in the remodeling of Mobile’s City Hall early in the 20th century. The building now houses the History Museum of Mobile.
Adamantile was used in the remodeling of Mobile’s City Hall early in the 20th century. The building now houses the History Museum of Mobile.

The new “Spanish mosaic works” was announced in an article appearing in the January 31, 1907 edition of the Mobile Register. A Cuban businessman “would locate a mosaic plant here with a capacity of 10,000 square yards a day,” it stated.

By that September, the newspaper further reported that the factory building had been built near Arlington, in the southern part of Mobile, and that the L & N Railroad was constructing a spur to transport the tile. The plant contained 55,000 square feet of floor space and represented a $100,000 investment.

By 1911, newspaper accounts state that the investment had doubled and the product was available in showrooms in Birmingham, Atlanta, New Orleans and New York City. An advertisement boasted that over 200,000 feet had been installed in Mobile, including the Court House, the Battle House Hotel, the Convent of Mercy, the Coca-Cola Factory and Spring Hill College.

DSC_0850This tile was touted for its “hygienic advantages.” Advertisements read, “Adamantile is only made in the United States by the National Mosaic Tile Company of Mobile. This tile is made Havana sanitary. For the sake of cleanliness and freedom from disease — for beauty’s sake, you ought to buy it.”

A 1918 brochure on Mobile’s business climate stated that the firm had been reorganized by Walter D. Bellingrath. It described Adamantile as a “high grade cement flooring tile,” which was produced on “36 high-powered hydraulic presses. The tiles produced are of various sizes in both plain and mosaic patterns.”

Tile in the kitchen of the Bellingrath Home.
Tile in the kitchen of the Bellingrath Home.

The Bellingrath kitchen has a cream-colored tile bordered with a classic black Greek key pattern, while the Riverside Porch tile is a solid medium shade of red. The Dining Porch draws the most attention, with its bold mosaic pattern in shades of gold and brown.

DSC_0826Walter Bellingrath’s basement office floor features eight distinctive mosaic designs within a plain brown border. The floor mimics an elaborate carpet with its profusion of colors and patterns.

As housing starts continued to slump during the 1930s, so did the demand for Adamantile. The firm was shut down by the end of the decade, and its factory site absorbed into what is now known as the Brookley Industrial Complex, a former World War II airfield.

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This Post Has 10 Comments

  1. Tommy- I believe that this is this kind of tile is in my grandparents home on Hwy 45 in Kushla. I have always thought it was pretty and different from anything I had ever seen. Interesting article!
    Thanks,
    Karen

  2. Yes, it most certainly is adamantile. That home was designed by George B. Rogers, and he loved adamantile!

  3. I have this tile on my porch and would like to have some repairs performed. Do you know who I could contact regarding replacement tiles?

  4. We are sorry, but we do not know of a resource to repair or replace Adamantile. It seems to be a lost art. Such a shame!

  5. Thanks for adding this info to your website. I knew about the Bellingrath Adamite tile as there is some in a neighbor’s home on Ft. Morgan Rd but I had not seen this page. These patterns in your photos are popular cement tile designs world-wide. You see them in Cuba, France, Vietnam, etc…We are in Gulf Shores, AL and have specialized in this type of tile for about 10 years. Our warehouses here have about 50,000 sf and we do many custom orders for hotels and restaurants, private homes, etc…

    “Encaustic” Cement Tile is currently made in Mexico, Cuba, Central America, Argentina, Brazil, Vietnam, Thailand, Caribbean, Bali, Morocco…and maybe a few other places. I have visited many of the overseas production facilities.
    We design our own tile and also sell the classic patterns like your’s and we ship world-wide. Our cement tile is even in Cinderella’s Castle in Orlando.

    Most of the cement tile in the USA came from Cuba, but after Fidel took over, that era ended, now one African gentleman has a revival small ‘factory’ which supplies cement tile for historic restoration there and private homes. I have visited his home and workshop.

    While we do receive requests to make small orders of tiles to fill in for broken or missing tiles in old floors, we find that customer satisfaction with putting brand new tiles in with old aged tile is a problem. So we will happily reproduce the whole floor or wall of tile, we have a 100 sf min. on custom orders… less on stock tile orders.

    Interestingly (to me!) my granddaddy was very close friends with Carl Bellingrath of Arkansas. They were fishing buddies. Grandaddy had a bazillion of photos of strings of fish and the happy campers. My grandparents on both sides of my family were in the CocaCola business so I suppose that is how Granddaddy, Newton A. Pridgen, knew Walter B.’s brother Carl.

    Anyway, we would be delighted to assist with reproduction tile if it is ever needed. Thanks for your informative web page.
    Lundy Wilder at Villa Lagoon Tile, Gulf Shores, Ala

  6. I will try to remember this article’s information when I visit Bellingrath. I have a special interest in learning more about “hygienic” advantages of Adamantile. It may fit well into my knowledge base.

    Thank you.

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