About 10 years ago, railroad buff Patrick Rose went looking for a rare set of Rookwood Pottery bookends that were modeled after Cincinnati’s Union Terminal. Along the way, the 1986 graduate discovered something even more valuable—that Rookwood’s assets, which had disappeared with the company in 1961, were sitting unused in the hands of a Michigan dentist.
Suddenly Rose had a new mission—to bring Rookwood home. Initially the dentist, who bought the company to save it from liquidation, refused to sell. But promising to keep the company intact and in Cincinnati, Rose prevailed, and three years later, he and a group of investors purchased the assets, including the original molds and trademarks for unique glazing formulas that made the pottery world famous at the turn of the century.
The venture was a coup. For many people, Rookwood is a household name that reflects a bygone era of Cincinnati history. The Rookwood Pottery Co. was founded in 1880 and produced art pottery that was relished by the rich as well as architectural décor that graced city buildings and public schools. The pottery’s work brought it international fame, and its pieces have become more valuable since its demise—a Rookwood vase sold recently for $375,000.
Now the investors, including Rose and his brother, Christopher, are counting on the Rookwood name and Cincinnati’s renaissance as a center of art for Rookwood’s successful return. Local artists have been hired, and the group expects to be in business early this year, producing high-end decorative tile designs and fireplaces as well as other art pieces in the Rookwood tradition.
“A large chunk of its value is its authenticity,” Rose says. “We have a responsibility to all those who came before—the owners, the artists, the collectors and the city. We take that very seriously.”