Friday, July 20, 2012

Carl R. Berg: A "Tile" of Two Theatres

If you have been reading these posts for awhile, you will recall the excitement of last year when we “struck tile” in the exterior Foyer of Medford’s Holly Theatre.  That tile, hidden under the ugly glue-down carpet and a thin layer of mortar, was a series of hexagonal field tiles with four 1x1 green tiles in the center.  The design provided the inspiration for entirely new work that was installed in time for the Holly’s “Grand Relighting” in April 2012, not to mention the underside of the marquee (which is also a hex pattern).  The future of the Holly, as an element of the so-called JPR-SOU dispute, is entirely open to question at the moment, but that’s another post.

I assumed, as an exterior element, that the Holly tile was the work of Frank Chamberlain Clark, a prolific and highly regarded southern Oregon architect who is credited with the exterior design of the theatre.  That now appears to be wrong.  The interiors of the Holly were  by Carl R. Berg, a theatre designer who worked for B. F. Shearer, out of Seattle and was responsible for 100s of theatres during his long career.  Another of Berg’s interiors is the fabulous Egyptian Theatre, in Coos Bay, also a project that we have been working to help reopen and restore.

Earlier this week, while touring the Egyptian in depth with the engineers who are working to craft a solution that will allow us to get the building back open and in use, I finally had the time to really poke around and look at things (previously I’ve only been in the theatre for a few short bursts of hour or less each.  This week I got to be inside for hours and hours!).  Anyway, behind the bad 1970s concession stand, behind the pretty cool 6x6 floor tiles, there was another tile surface, sort of a trapezoidal shaped area that was filled with smaller mosaic floor tile in a very familiar looking pattern.

Granted that this design isn’t exactly as unique as a snowflake or fingerprints, but I am going to take this as evidence that the same designer was responsible for tile elements at both the Holly and the Egyptian.  That designer would surely be Mr. Berg.  Now I am curious if there is a hex pattern tile at the Cordova Theatre, in Pullman, Washington.  Does anyone know?

I wish I’d seen the Egyptian floor sooner.  It’s in much better condition than that of the Holly foyer, but how could it not be?  It’s on the interior and nobody ever covered it with concrete!  It's in good enough condition that I will hope it can be retained as part of some re-designed, more attractive, and more functional, concession area in the Egyptian's future.


  1. It’s really a nice and useful piece of information. Thanks for the share.
    Hexagonal floor Tile

  2. Great information. I am doing a lecture on BF Shearer on May 13 in Portland. Thanks!

  3. Where and to what purpose are you speaking on Shearer?