Meet Ben Tyjeski, the man who is working to tell the story of a iconic South Milwaukee business almost lost to history.
Ben, a Milwaukee Public Schools art teacher, is working on a book about Continental Faience and Tile Co., assisted by collectors Kathy Roberts and Kelly Dudley.
I met Ben a few weeks ago, and he got a tour of the collection of historic tile the city salvaged prior to the demolition of the tile business in 2008. We also loaned him several of the smaller pieces, as he works on a plan to display them as part of the launch of the book in 2019.
I am excited for his work, as it will help keep alive the memory of truly unique part of South Milwaukee’s history — a building that began as the short-lived home to the Fisk Rubber Co. before the Lawson Airline Co. took ownership. Lawson is famous in its own right, as the maker of the county’s first commercial airliner.
Continental Tile bought the building in 1923 and operated there until 1940, producing works of art that still adorn the interiors and exteriors of hundreds of buildings around the area. Ben has already found more than 120 examples of the tile on building exteriors around Milwaukee, and he is checking out South Milwaukee High School, which has tile, brought from the former junior high building, in its floor at the entrance to the commons area.
All of this will be in the book, which we’ll celebrate when it’s released as an opportunity to tell a story about South Milwaukee’s proud past that few know about.
In the meantime, do you know of any other uses of Continental tile? Shoot Ben an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
More details on Ben’s work here; this story is how we got connected. More details on the building’s timeline — and its eventual demise — here. And if you haven’t heard the story of Alfred Lawson and the Lawson Airline Co., it’s worth learning more about. Do so here … and at the Mitchell Gallery of Flight at Mitchell International Airport. The next time you fly, check out their museum hidden between Gates C and D.)