The Year the Tile Broke: 2009 recap

Why haven’t I written about Toynbee tiles in a while? It’s been a great year. Actually, 2009 will go down in history as the year the tile broke. Consider this:

There are no less than 4 people or groups (probably 5 or 6) out there tiling Philadelphia. They are:

1. House of Hades. The Buffalo/NYC group (or person) has put down spectacular tiles all over Manhattan and dropped a couple (including an incredible Toynbee tile reproduction) in Philadelphia. Outside the originals, they’re the most skilled and creative of the new tilers. You can see their work at 16th and Chestnut and Broad and Spruce. They keep it anonymous, which gives them bonus points. How do I know that Broad and Spruce tile is a fake? Trust me. There are half a dozen give aways.

16th and Chestnut House of Hades

16th and Chestnut House of Hades

House of Hades Copycat Toynbee Tile at Broad & Spruce in Philadelphia.

House of Hades Copycat Toynbee Tile at Broad & Spruce in Philadelphia.

2. Stikman: Those ubiquitous robot men were joined this year by random single words, the mothership being in front of the Crane Arts Building up on American Street. While stikman remains only semi-anonymous (he gives interviews) he gets extra points for spreading his tiles everywhere, from Hollywood to Atlantic City and 100 points in between.


3. Utrecht Linoleum tiles: A few tiles created with battleship gray art-store linoleum have popped up around town. A 16th and Walnut tile reads RIP PHILA and one up at Broad and Cecil B. Moore says something similar. These tiles are probably related to the Tupac tiles. One of these is at 40th and Market and another (found curbside) is in my living room. It reads “Tupac Alive in Jamaica.” These tiles get extra points for making me laugh.


4. Possibly, but probably not made by the same person as the Utrecht Linoleum tiles is a type found at 12th and Market. It’s 2 sections long and reads “Tut Mir Leid” which means “I’m sorry” in German.

5. TOYNBEE IDEA: And to top it all off, this has been one of the most prolific years ever for good old fashioned Toynbee tiles. Dozens of them in every variety ever produced (plus some new types) have appeared all over the city and into South Jersey. 52nd and Market is tiled. Kensington and Allegheny has 2. Penn Campus has been surrounded with large original style tiles. Below is a comprehensive (and growing) list:

Toynbee Tile

Original Style tile at the North Portal of City Hall

2009 Toynbee tiles:

3rd and South (strip)
5th and Market (strip, broken)
5th and Lombard (strip)
8th and Market (semi old school)
8th and Oregon (large index card)
9th and Walnut (strip)
9th and Market (old school with red border)
9th and Arch (old school with red border)
10th and Race (2 tiles, semi old school)
10th and Arch (semi old school)
10th and Market (semi old school, destroyed)
10th and South (Large, new style, flipped)
16th and Spruce (large Index Card)
16th and Locust (large Index Card)
16th and Walnut (large Index Card)
16th Sansom (large Index Card)
16th Chestnut (large Index Card)
18th and Market (strip)
19th and the Parkway (South Side, strip)
19th and the Parkway (North Side, next to last year’s tile, strip)
19th and Vine (Next to last year’s tile, strip)
19th and Market (strip)
20th and Chestnut (strip)
20th and Market (strip)
20th and Race (strip)
21st and Cherry (x2, north and eastbound corners, strips)
22nd and Arch (strip)
34th and Chestnut (old school?)
34th and Walnut (old school?)
38th and Walnut (old school?)
41st and Filbert (semi old-school)
42nd and Lancaster (License plate)
42nd and Market (License plate)
42nd and Chestnut (License plate)
43rd and Chester (large index style)
48th and Woodland (large index style)
52nd and Market (semi old school)
Race and the Parkway (strip)
Logan Circle and Kelly Drive (strip)
Logan Circle near 23rd (strip)
Route 70 & King’s Highway ((large, new style)
Kensington & Allegheny (x2, large, new style)
Kensington and Madison (strip)
City Hall (NW Corner, old school)

Other Tiles:

Broad & Spruce (original style Toynbee tile + lady legs. House of Hades Copycat)
Broad and South (still covered)
Broad and South (eastern side)
Broad and Cecil B. Moore
2nd and Poplar
2nd and Chestnut (Cracked goblet)
2nd and Market (Tupac tile… destroyed)
12th and Market (says: “Tut Mir Leid” which translates to I’m sorry in German)
15th and Walnut (says: “RIP PHILA”)
16th and Sansom
16th and Chestnut (House of Hades tile, Large)
21st and Moravian (Forgive Me)
22nd and Walnut (Rocketship)
31st and Market (House of Hades)
40th and Market (Tupac Tile)
43rd & Baltimore (copycat, not Toynbee)
+ dozens of stikmen, single word tiles.

6 Comments on “The Year the Tile Broke: 2009 recap

  1. Wow, thanks for this, Steve! I tend to forget how the tile ‘movement’ has really spread. In another 10 years I wonder if this artform will be worldwide…… how long until streets in Japan and Russia are tiled? I bet tiles in Russia would make the original tiler quite happy!

  2. In regards to image #2, the text is taken from a neon light piece by artist Bruce Nauman: “The True Artist Helps the World by Revealing Mystic Truths,” You can google image the artwork.

  3. yall need to stop playing so much yall know 2pac aint in no jammica

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.