Kansas - It's dear to the heart of Virginia Allain. She grew up there & loves the big skies, the prairies, the small towns, & history.
Delightful, Old-Time Art in a Vintage Tin Ceiling
Vintage Tin Ceilings in Kansas
Some years back, I wandered with my camera through the small town of Whitewater in Butler County, Kansas. Many of the buildings date back to more prosperous times and still retain their stamped tin ceilings. Tin ceilings were popular in America from the 1890s to the 1930s.
The tin designs are square pieces that fit together to form an intricate pattern. The one above is the ceiling in the Victorian Rose, which was a combination florist and gift shop.
Other places in Whitewater where you can see the tin ceilings is in the old bank building. It is painted and in fine condition.
If you stop by the town to see the old tin ceilings, take some time to admire the wonderful woodwork in the bank as well.
I researched how these ceilings were made and found that you can still get them. This is great news for anyone restoring an old building to its original glory or if you just want something unique in your home.
Pictures of Tin Ceilings
What Are the Tiles Made of?
Since they are called tin ceilings, I just assumed they were made of tin. When I did some research, I found a company that carries over 90 different patterns of these. In their FAQ section, they provided this information:
The authentic, historically correct material is tin plated steel. They offer it in its raw form as well as painted. The raw form is the most economical option, but it has to be painted from both sides.
The company also sells metal ceiling tiles made of aluminum and copper. They didn't make those back in the good-old-days, for sure.
Many thanks to DecorativeCeilingTiles for this information.
Tin Ceiling in Whitewater Bank Building
Where Did They Make These Ceilings?
Anita Harvey McDaniel informed me that many of these tin ceilings were made in Webb City or in the small town of Nevada, Missouri that is not far from Kansas. The factory in Webb City still has the forms and makes metal for special orders.
The one in Nevada is going strong. It's called the W.F. Norman Corporation. This video gives the whole history and shows how the tin ceilings are made.
Where Can You See Old Tin Ceilings?
Here's a sampling of buildings in Kansas where the vintage tin ceilings are still in place. The best places to look are the tiny, sleepy-looking towns that haven't modernized all their downtown stores.
- Haviland Hardware, 114 N. Main in Haviland, KS.
- Halley’s Junction, 101 N. High, an old red-brick store in Belvedere, KS.
- The Farmhouse (restaurant), 400 2nd Street in Olsberg, KS.
- The cafe in Elgin, right on the OK/KS border. (not sure if this is open)
- Post office, McFarland, KS.
- Be Made Mercantile, 801 Main Street in Hays, KS.
Sometimes, one has been preserved even in larger cities.
- The Anchor (a restaurant), 1109 E Douglas Ave, Wichita, KS.
- The Old Tasty Shop - Wichita, KS.
You'll also see them in Missouri as well.
- The Fred Restaurant, 501 High Street, Boonville, MO. The building (Hotel Frederick) is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
- A hardware store on the square in Carthage, MO.
How Are the Ceilings Installed?
Kansas Towns with Many Historic Buildings
These towns were recommended to me by the Kansas History Geeks group on Facebook. Individuals said they were good places to view the old pressed-tin ceilings.
- Council Grove
- Fort Scott
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2018 Virginia Allain
Have you seen tin ceilings anywhere?
Mickie Gee on August 29, 2018:
Such an informative article about one of my favorite "art forms", tin ceilings. Nicely done.
Dolores Monet from East Coast, United States on August 01, 2018:
Hi Virginia - I love those old "tin" ceilings. They were so pretty. I know they make a new version. My son is hoping to put up such a ceiling in the kitchen of his older home. But kitchen ceilings can get soiled so quickly. I don't think that I'd enjoy cleaning one.
Joanna McKenna from Central Oklahoma on July 28, 2018:
Most of the bars at that time were downtown, so I'm guessing if you went to any with your friends, at some point you wandered down to the "Barrel" under the street-level Mit-Way Cafe. Most of the bars at that time were downtown or out on the edge of town. Don't recall any close to campus, only a couple of pizza places that only served non-alcoholic beverages.
Virginia Allain (author) from Central Florida on July 28, 2018:
Wow, Joanna, some fascinating history there. I'd like to imagine that someone saved that ceiling when the building was torn down and perhaps installed it in their business or home.
I went to college at Emporia State, so am trying to remember where I may have gone with my friends. Can't say that at that time, I was paying too much attention to vintage building details.
Joanna McKenna from Central Oklahoma on July 28, 2018:
In the basement of the now-demolished Mit-Way Hotel in Emporia was a barber shop run for 50 or 60 years by twin barbers until the death of one and the retirement of the other in the early 1970s. It had tin ceilings and tiny hexagonal black and white ceramic tiles as the floor.
After the twins died/retired the former barbershop became the other half of a bar called the Bourbon Barrel. Although only the tin ceiling was visible when I bartended there, the tiny tiles were covered by carpet. Only when that side of the BB was being expanded did the brief exposure of the tiles remind me that I'd accompanied my dad to the barbershop several times as a child!
Hopefully, the tin ceiling and tiles were salvaged when the hotel was torn down, but I've never found any published accounts of the demolition of what had been a landmark on Commercial St since the 1880s.
Thaïs Lips on July 28, 2018:
I love these period tin ceilings, and the article depicts them so well that we could get by without the beautiful photos.
Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on July 24, 2018:
I have seen some of these tin ceilings on television when they sometimes show the restoration of older buildings. They can be quite beautiful.
Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on July 23, 2018:
I've never heard of tin ceilings before. The designs in your photos look very interesting, especially the second one.
Mary Norton from Ontario, Canada on July 22, 2018:
I love these tin ceilings and they look really great.