When you think of Lexington, Virginia, you might think of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Robert E. Lee, Stonewall Jackson, Cyrus McCormick, Sam Houston and George C. Marshall, Washington & Lee University and Virginia Military Institute. You might think of national historic landmarks or the majestic Natural Bridge. All play significant roles in Lexington and Rockbridge County's rich history of people and institutions, making Lexington a popular tourist destination for history buffs.
But there's a little-known history on the floors of Lexington. Its homes and shops have numerous examples of antique tile installations in a variety commonly seen today only in major cities. By walking around just one square block of the charming downtown area, you can see at least nine antique tile installations that have not been covered up or replaced.
At Creative Tile, we are in the process of researching these installations to find out the names of the companies or individuals who expertly and artistically laid these tiles which have held up to at least a hundred years of foot traffic and weather. An expert on the subject of historic buildings in Lexington has suggested that the tiles may have been laid by a local brick layer named John Champ, but we don't yet have a confirmation of that.
Champ was an important figure in modernizing downtown buildings during the late 1800s and the early 1900s as materials became accessible with the completion of rail lines through the area. Around the time that the tiles were being laid, large plate glass windows were also being installed in many of the storefronts. These were common practices of the era, not unique to Lexington. What is unique to Lexington is the long-running concerted effort to preserve the architectural integrity of its downtown.
As we get more information about the history of these installations, we will post it on this site. If you have any information about tile installations of this era, we would love to hear from you. We're curious about the origin of the tiles, the price, the profession, or any anecdotes you can share.