The Shively Sanitary Tenements were originally built to house low-income families who had been infected with tuberculosis. Easy to clean, stain resistant, and light-reflective, the now classic subway tile was the perfect choice for a building designed to combat infection. Using our Subway Ceramics collection, a current building resident recently set out to restore his bathroom to its original character.

Previously known as the East River Homes or Shively Sanitary Tenements, The Cherokee is a cooperative apartment building in New York’s Upper East Side. The project was conceived by Dr. Henry Shively, head of the tuberculosis unit at Presbyterian Hospital, to house low-income families who had been infected with tuberculosis. It was designed by architect Henry Atterbury Smith and completed in 1912.

Around the turn of the century, activists were increasingly concerned about the squalid living conditions of New York City’s poor. They believed the lack of sanitation was contributing to both the physical and moral decay of the city and its citizens. While some housing regulations were passed to improve standards of lighting, ventilation, and safety, the Shively Sanitary Tenements emphasized health and sanitation to an unprecedented degree.

Smith designed the building using sanitary materials such as tile and concrete. The private bathrooms and public passageways were both richly tiled. Easy to clean, stain resistant, and light-reflective, the now classic subway tile was the perfect choice for a building designed to combat infection.

Architect and current building resident Ben recently set out to restore his bathroom to its original charcter. To do so, he turned to our Subway Ceramics and Subway Mosaics collections.

In his bathroom, Ben used our historically authentic 3x6” field tile in the Avalon glaze. The tile extends far up the wall and into the shower, maintaining a visual cohesion that makes this small space feel larger. The high tank toilet with pull chain provides additional vintage charm!

Ben also installed the 6x6” sanitary cove base moldings and trim pieces to create a smooth transition between the wall and floor, which was done in our marble 1¼” hexagon pattern. Marble mosaic floors were common in turn-of-the-century tenement-style buildings.

At the intersection of the tile and wallpaper, Ben used our specialty P-cap pieces to elegantly terminate the edge. Radius bullnose pieces form the rounded outside corners.

These details come together to recreate the early twentieth century character of this New York City bathroom. The Cherokee is a historic building and we applaud Ben's commitment to authenticity!

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The Cherokee Apartment Building

Its Role in the Urban Sanitary Movement

Our line of Subway Ceramics

Our line of Subway Mosaics