After the civil war, metal developed into a popular building material. It was durable, easy to work with, required little maintenance, and was flameproof.
Foundaries cast, molded, rolled and pressed iron and steel into almost every type of structural and decorative building elements. One of the most durable of the products of the period was the stamped or pressed metal ceiling.
Generally known now as "tin ceilings," they were never made of tin. The earliest and the crudest were corrugated iron. The first known ceiling, manufactured in 1868, was the "Gilbert Patent Corrugated Iron Arched Ceiling." The rough ceilings were used in prisons, factories and industrial buildings.
It was not until the 1880s that they began to be used in hospitals, apartment buildings, schools and banks. For these uses, the corrugated iron was replaced with thin sheets of steel. Bronze, zinc and copper also were available and were used in the more elegant buildings. Metals ceilings never became popular for residential uses.
The ceilings were made of interlocking sections generally two feet wide and two, four or eight feet length. They were stamped with patterns designed to duplicate the 'appearance of wood, plaster ot stucco.
There were also modings, cornices and centerpieces to complete the design. Some manufacturers produced stamped metal sections for walls, a very durable wallcovering for commercial purposes.
A builder ordered the metal sections from manufacturers' catalogues. The sections were stamped from dies and painted iron oxide. Furring strips (narrow pieces of wood) were nailed to the wall studs in a new building or to the old plaster in a renovation. The metals section were then nailed to the furring strips and painted to match the rest of the room.
Many turn-of-the century commercial buildings still have their original ceilings, even though some may be hidden under the mid-20th century equivalent, the suspended grid ceiling. For owners of such buildings and for everyone else who would like to use the ornamental metal ceiling, there are three companies producing the designs.
The Barney Branium Shanker Steel Co., 70-32 83rd St., Glendale, NY. 11227 and AA-Abingdon Ceiling Co., 2149 Utica Ave., Brooklyn, N.Y. 11234, deal exclusively in the metal ceilings. Kenneth Lynch & Sons, 78 Danbury Road, Wilton, Conn. 06897, produces the ceilings as well as ornamental gutters, weathervanes and cast iron garden furniture. The metal panels cost about $2 per square foot.