Terra Cotta Tile Mosaic Restoration—Cardozo High School

Washington, DC

Cardozo High School, known as Central High School from 1917-1950, is sited prominently on a ridge north of Florida Avenue in Washington, offering grand views of the city. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, Cardozo was designed by architect William B. Ittner in the Institutional Gothic style.

Cardozo is in the final stages of a complete renovation and modernization. Many features of the historic plan have been preserved. We were contracted in 2013 to restore original interior and exterior terra cotta tile murals by Rookwood Pottery and Moravian Pottery and Tile Works. The sixteen interior murals paint a scene of pastoral or marine landscape. The exterior murals depict various trade and craft skills.

The Rookwood tiles sustained damage due to the installation of water fountains including remnant holes left from screws and pipes, cracking, loss of glaze, and chipping. Each was cleaned to remove soiling and paint. We patched the spalls and missing glaze, and rebuilt the raised ridges and texture. Each repair was in-painted to blend with the original colors. Tiles beyond repair were replaced with new tiles made by the original manufacturer. The exterior Moravian murals are exposed to the elements and showed typical signs of deterioration including atmospheric soiling, glaze loss, spalling, and mortar loss. Two of the murals had been completely painted in an attempt to conceal deterioration. Conservators removed paint and soiling, patched and painted the spalls, and repointed the tiles with mortar matching the original.

This Project was recognized with the 2014 District of Columbia Award for Excellence in Historic Preservation.