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Hi, I'm Tamera, a professional wedding, portrait and boudoir photographer in Colorado Springs. But this blog isn't about my professional work; no, it's a daily love note to my beautiful city, where I've lived for most of my life. I love it here and I hope you enjoy seeing Colorado Springs through my eyes and lens!

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15 June 2009

Van Briggle Pottery

Van Briggle Pottery is one of the many things that help make Colorado Springs cool and unique. I think it's a very interesting and wonderful part of our history. Many of our beautiful downtown Victorians and Craftsmen bungalows have Van Briggle tiled fireplaces. It's something you won't see in any other city.

Here is the basic story: In 1899, an artisan named Artus Van Briggle moved to Colorado Springs with the dream of establishing his own fine art pottery business. Van Briggle Pottery opened soon thereafter, with Artus and his sweetheart Anne at the helm. Artus was a gifted artist (yes, his name is a homonym!); his award-winning pottery had all the hallmarks of Art Nouveau style and a distinctive, matte-green glaze that he personally developed. Artus and Anne were married in 1902, and as a couple their artistic collaborations in pottery earned them accolades and worldwide fame. They developed a unique logo of two mirrored A's to symbolize their initials, which I think was very sweet. It's an instantly recognizable hallmark of Van Briggle Pottery to this day and is incised on the bottom of all Van Briggle pieces.

Unfortunately Artus succumbed to tuberculosis in 1904 at the young age of 35, and Anne was left to carry on the trade. Van Briggle's first location was somewhere on Weber Street (or maybe it was Nevada Ave.), very near where I used to live. I once went on a search for the building, armed only with the street address, but could not find it -- it must have been demolished at some point. In 1907, Anne collaborated with city founder William Jackson Palmer to erect a distinct new building, a detail of which is shown in the photo above (and in yesterday's photo as well), designed by Dutch architect Nicholas Van den Arend. It's a really cool building! As you can probably tell from my pictures, it's uniquely adorned with decorative tiles. It looks particularly beautiful in the late afternoon.

Anne remarried a few years after Artus' death and moved to Denver. In her absence, the Van Briggle building and business eventually fell into disrepair until she sold both. Van Briggle Pottery perservered through the years under the ownership of the Curtis family, and later the Lewis family. It has continued to produce beautiful fine art pottery in the Art Nouveau style.

Van Briggle relocated to an old railroad roundhouse on 21st and Cimarron in the 1950's, leaving the fantastic Van den Arend building empty and unused. It was eventually sold to the Colorado College in 1968, and CC now uses it as the plant! By that I mean it houses heating and air conditioning stuff. I'm not kidding. Though for years it was apparently just used as a junk room. Yes, this beautiful building was filled with castaway office furniture and the like! It kills me to think of that. At least they didn't tear it down. In fact, it's still gorgeous, having seen a bit of restoration after 40 years of neglect. Well, no matter what's inside it, the old Van Briggle building is just stunning.

Van Briggle recently relocated again; it took me some months to find them but just the other day I discovered that they are now on South Tejon Street near Black and White Auto. So the tradition perserveres, which makes me happy. I am very proud of the single piece of Van Briggle pottery that I own, a vintage piece (circa 1930's) that Pat bought for me. It's one of my prized possessions.


Lois said...

Very pretty! I enjoyed reading all the history.

Frank said...

Your story of Van Briggle's Pottery is so cool. I appreciate how you dig and give us great depth and feeling.

I've nominated you and Colorado Springs Daily Photo for an award. I hope you will visit Tampa Daily Photo to accept it. You are very deserving.