Fireplace Tiles

A seldom-seen feature of the original Library is the fireplace which dominates the north wall of 191 Library. Decorative ceramic tiles designed by Henry Chapman Mercer adorn the chimney breast and mantel frieze. Subjects were selected from his series "Tiles of the New World" to depict the theme of "reaching out into the unknown." The Moravian Pottery and Tile Works of Doylestown, Pennsylvania executed the work for the new Library building in 1925. Titles of the individual fireplace tiles are:

Chimney Breast

Tile above mantel depicting El Dorado, golden building in center of city

El Dorado

The fabled city of gold and riches sought by early Spanish explorers of South America. (Tiles of the New World no. 8)
Tile on left end; castle-like medieval city


The island paradise of Celtic mythology. The fairy Morgana lived here where King Arthur's sword was supposedly forged, hence the name "Morgana" on the central tower. (Tiles of the New World no. 19)

Columbus is in green puffy pants and Native American in striped skirt-like garment. Framed by columns and complex arch.

Landing of Columbus

A Native American in feather headdress and girdle exchanges gifts with Columbus. On the ground between them rests a large basket of fruit from the New World. The design is after an old engraving. (Tiles of the New World no. 7)

A ship under a golden rayed sun with a face

Plus Ultra

A ship sails between columns denoting the Pillars of Hercules at the east end of the Strait of Gibraltar, the gateway to the unknown. The motto, on banners coiled around the pillars, translates as "More Beyond." (Tiles of the New World no. 4)

Double arches - Columbus in armor with three ships at left faces Ferdinand and Isobella under another arch

Departure of Columbus

The explorer is depicted in armor and plumed helmet beside his three ships in the left arch of this double-wide tile. At the right, King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella of Spain give their blessing to the voyage. Putti recline in the spandrels above the figures with the abbreviated motto "Plus Ultra." Mercer's source for this design was a 16th century engraving by Theodore De Bry. (Tiles of the New World no. 3)

Seated Native American works at making arrowheads, between twisted arches

Making Arrowheads

An original design by Mercer of a Native North American tool maker. A beaver skin rests on the artisan's lap as he chips away at a stone. A stack of finished arrow points may be seen to the left. (Tiles of the New World no. 41)

Two Native Americans one either side of altar with sun overhead

Worshipping the Sun

Native Meso-American priests stand on the steps of an outdoor temple offering a sacrifice of fruit as they worship the sun. The source for this design was an old engraving. (Tiles of the New World no. 14)

Elderly Spaniard and Native American with fruit trees overhead

Fountain of Youth

An elderly Spaniard is offered a cup of the fabled youth-restorative water by a Native American. The scene is framed by a lush banana plant on the right and a bountiful fruit tree on the left. The Latin inscription winding around the flowing water reads: "Aet juvent fons." (Tiles of the New World no. 10)

Elaborate architecture, Native Americans in elaborate costumes


The name applied by 16th & 17th century map makers to an undefined region along the eastern coast of North America north of Florida. Native Americans wearing elaborate plumed headdresses and robes are set against buildings of exotic architecture. (Tiles of the New World no. 43)

Left column under mantel, green glaze on top, three figures in panels

Historical Figures

Historical figures, including those of Columbus and Queen Isabella, decorate the capitals of the engaged octagonal columns on either side of the fireplace.

Right column, with green glazed top, hexagonal, with three panels