Grueby Tiles at the Dreamwold Estate
Cantankerous and controversial businessman and author Thomas W. Lawson amassed an enormous fortune in the 19th century as a stock promoter. He spent $6,000,000 of it, the equivalent today of about $180,000,000, to build a sprawling 210-acre estate in Scituate, Massachusetts. Christened “Dreamwold,” it was designed by Boston architectural firm Coolidge and Carlson, who contracted Grueby to provide ceramic tile for several bathrooms, the conservatory, and no fewer than eight fireplaces.
Addison Le Boutillier succeeded George Kendrick as Director of Design at Grueby in 1902 and designed many of the tiles at Dreamwold. He was an experienced draughtsman and masterful illustrator who had traveled the world, studying a variety of periods and styles from Etruscan to Celtic. Of the many tiles at the estate, including pond lilies and turtles, scholarship suggests that he was responsible for the present design, which depicts a procession of horses reminiscent of those from archaic Greek friezes. It is a deftly executed composition of a single tile that can be endlessly repeated, while still remaining graceful and suggestive of motion and depth. These tiles are rare, the beginning and end cap tiles even more so. Le Boutillier remained at Grueby until at least 1911 and would produce over one hundred tile designs during his tenure.
Lawson died penniless in 1925 and the estate, its furnishings, and even its tiles, were split up and sold off to cover his losses. Little remains of the original estate beyond the main house, dubbed “The Nest” by Lawson and his wife, and the massive European-style Lawson Tower he had built to enclose a steel water tank.