The dazzling tiles of a Central Park ceiling

New York has lots of beautiful ballroom, bar, and lobby ceilings. One of the most magical is at the Bethesda Arcade—the arched walkway in the center of the park that brings you to Bethesda Fountain and the Central Park Lake.

It’s an enchanting place to go when the weather gets dreary, a colorful antidote to gray winter days. [above photo from]

“Installed in 1869, there are more than 15,000 colorful, patterned encaustic tiles, made by England’s famed Minton Tile Company,” states

Encaustic tiles, originally created to cover the floors of European cathedrals, are made of individually colored clays pressed and fired into the tile to form the design. Bethesda Arcade is the only place in the world where Minton ceramic tiles are used for a ceiling.”

Dirty and weathered over time, the tiles were taken down in the 1980s and put in storage until 2007, when the newly restored Arcade was reopened to the public.

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12 Responses to “The dazzling tiles of a Central Park ceiling”

  1. Laura Mercorillo Says:

    gasping here!

  2. wildnewyork Says:

    I know…they must be seen in person to really appreciate how beautiful they are, so different from the rustic park.

  3. Laura Mercorillo Says:

    I wish I could
    thanks for sharing such a lovely suggestion

  4. Parnassus Says:

    This is amazing. They are at the top of the list for my next trip to New York. These kinds of tiles are often seen in American homes in vestibule floors, but this installation is impressive in every way. I’m glad they restored this–often when they store architectural parts, when they get around to fixing it, half is missing.
    –Road to Parnassus

  5. wildnewyork Says:

    Yes, you must see them–enchanting. As is all of Bethesda Terrace and Fountain, of course.

  6. Fred Ost Says:

    As a result of your emailing this to me, when I was in NYC last week I made a special point of going to see these ceiling tiles. They were clean, colorful, and beautiful.

  7. wildnewyork Says:

    Aren’t they? It’s like being in another city, they enchant and transport you. Glad you got to see them!

  8. A whimsical Victorian fountain in Central Park « Ephemeral New York Says:

    […] west is an ornate beauty dating to 1860, made with frosted glass bowl lamps, gilded black goblets, Minton tiles and topped by a golden […]

  9. A spooky look at Bethesda Terrace at night | Ephemeral New York Says:

    […] a photo of Bethesda Terrace under construction in 1862. The park has officially opened, but much work still needed to be […]

  10. The most beautiful bridges inside Central Park | Ephemeral New York Says:

    […] And of course, probably the most iconic bridge in the park is the one at Bethesda Terrace, with its dazzling ceiling tiles. […]

  11. Audrey Burtrum-Stanley Says:

    I know a wee bit about these tiles as I am so very fond of the US Capitol bldg in Washington, D.C. There they have had installed highly elaborate Minton-manufactured tiles in the secondary wings of the bldg. The outstanding feature of these tiles is the fact the design is not just added to the surface and fired – these ‘encaustic tiles’ have the design enbedded perhaps as much as 1/8th to 1/4th of an inch. Therefore, the everyday foot-traffic on the surface does NOT destroy the designs for decades.

    (Pompeii had similar tiles too!)

    The really cool idea here is that these valuable, colorful tiles are NOT under foot, but rather oddly were chosen as an adornment overhead! Only the fantastical dancer, Fred Astaire would be guilty of wear ‘n tear on THESE tiles – as only Fred was capable of clicking his heels ‘n toes in a ‘Royal Wedding’ dance across THIS Central Park ceiling…and that would be an even more enhancing, entrancing site indeed!

  12. All the ladies on the Central Park Mall in 1901 | Ephemeral New York Says:

    […] may have been struck by the sight of so many women (and some kids, plus a few men) gathered at the Terrace steps, almost all in brightly colored dresses shielding themselves from the sun under […]

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