McCandless Tile
McCandless Tile

Members of the McCandless family stand in front of the Orange Plaza Fountain, which was damaged during a police chase in March.  McCandless Tile is renovating the fountain, originally tiled by Charles McCandless. Pictured back left are great grandchildren Devon and Dahlia Davis standing in front of their parents, Elyse McCandless Davis and Brian Davis, with Paige Heredia and Jenny McCandless.  Back right are Sierra Heredia, Cal McCandless, Billy Cox, Marci McCandless Cox and Claudia McCandless, with Mark McCandless, standing between his parents, Cindy and Fred.  Not shown: Lauren and Tatum McCandless.  Inset:  Master tile worker, Charles McCandless, founder of McCandless Tile.

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McCandless Tile

When his phone rang the morning of March 13, Mark McCandless immediately jumped in his car and drove to Old Towne.  The caller was one of McCandless’ tile workers, who said the driver of a stolen car plowed through Plaza Park and damaged its historic fountain.

City workers were already there when McCandless arrived.

“I walked up and said, ‘Hey, anybody looking for a tile guy?’” he says.

McCandless had good reason to rush to the site.  The fountain was tiled by his grandfather, Charles, in 1937.  Now his family’s company has started to restore the fountain, which is slated for completion in midsummer.

McCandless Tile has been in business since 1924, when Charles McCandless started working on tile in his Orange backyard.  The company’s tile work can be seen on storefronts on Catalina Island, as well as at Disneyworld, Knott’s Berry Farm, the Bowers Museum and Hearst Castle. 

Charles McCandless’ sons, Fred and Charles Jr., both started helping their father with tile jobs as teens.  Fred McCandless, Mark’s father, recalls installing tile at Disneyland’s Tiki Room and meeting Walt Disney.

“I can remember that I thought this guy is a giant,” Fred McCandless says.  “He was just a good guy.”

Mark McCandless followed the path of his father, carrying tile and buckets of water starting at 12 years old.  He worked with his grandfather for 15 years before he died, and now serves as company president.

McCandless Tile has about 70 employees, serving between 20-30 general contractors.  The Santa Ana- based company works on a mix of private and public contracts.

The company is best known for tiling all of Disneyworld, a massive project lasting around a decade in the 1970s and involving 50 to 100 installers. Mark McCandless says it’s one of the biggest tile contracts ever awarded in America.

A more recent project—Hearst Castle’s Neptune Pool—is a job Mark McCandless considers a career highlight.  The 90-year-old pool underwent renovation starting in 2014, a $10 million project that included the removal of more than 9,000-square-feet of marble tiles and the installation of thousands of new tiles, according to the Hearst Castle website.

Charles, Fred and Mark McCandless all worked on tile for San Clemente’s Ole Hanson Beach Club, a Spanish-revival building and pool constructed in 1928.

Snyder Langston, an Irvine general contractor, has worked with McCandless for more than 30 years on jobs, including Irvine’s Boardwalk, and retail and commercial properties throughout Orange County.

“They’re just a great partner,” says Chris Voros, project executive for Snyder Langston.  “They plan efficiently, execute efficiently, and it’s always with a smile on their faces.”

For the Plaza Fountain project, workers have already completed demolition work and replaced concrete.  McCandless says he is working with a company to make tile that matches the original color glaze.

As a tribute to his grandfather, Mark McCandless plans to use Charles McCandless’ 100-year-old tiling tools for the restoration, such as trowels, chisels and mason hammers, along with some modern tools.  He will do all the work himself.

“I’m super excited to be working on a job that was built 90 years ago with the hands of my grandfather,” he says.

Rob Boice, president of the Old Towne Preservation Association, praised the McCandless family for its multi-generational work to beautify Orange County.  Boice spoke recently to Mark McCandless about the restoration of tile at the historic Killefer school site.  It’s another project city officials believe was originally tiled by Charles McCandless.

The fountain project is very important to the region, says Boice.  “The fact that two county supervisors contributed thousands of dollars to the restoration of the Plaza Fountain confirms what I have always believed,” he says.  “Orange’s historic resources don’t just belong to Orange, but to the entire community and beyond.

Article Published in the
Jul / Aug 23 edition of the Old Towne Orange Plaza Review
Written by Melissa Pinion-Whitt Family Photo by Gil Bothwell
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