Nationally known tile expert Riley Doty is the tour leader for the July 20 walking tour, "Tiles and Terra Cotta in Uptown Oakland," sponsored by the Oakland Heritage Alliance. The tour begins at 12:30 p.m. at 17th and Webster streets, in front of the richly tiled landmark Howden Building.

On the walk, Doty will point out examples of the district's commercial buildings that exhibit a variety of styles built during the heyday of Art Deco and Moderne, from 1908 to 1931. The use of fired pottery materials for the exteriors of these structures will be highlighted, and Doty will provide information on the special maintenance, preservation, and restoration needs of such landmarks.

Go to www.oaklandheritage.org for further details about Doty's tour, and also info on opportunities for buying multitour passes for the other tours offered this season.

The Oakland Heritage Alliance tours are based in part on the work of the Oakland Cultural Heritage Survey and the resources of the Oakland History Room at the main branch of the Oakland Public Library.

Doty has his own tile-installation business and has been working on projects in the Bay Area for 35 years. He is one of the founders of Artistic License, a group of building restoration specialists. The members share skills and information at monthly meetings and seek to educate the public about the importance of quality restoration work.

Founded in San Francisco in the early 1980s at the start of the Victorian "Painted Ladies" craze, Artistic License soon became established as a respected consortium of painters, gilders, wood restorers, window specialists and the like with a growing "word-of-mouth" reputation among satisfied owners of old buildings.

Soon images from magazines and books profiling the group's work made their way into mainstream preservation circles around the country. Today, Doty and the other specialists are often called upon to consult on projects beyond the Bay Area.

Another of Doty's organizations geared to tile enthusiasts is The Tile Heritage Foundation (www.tileheritage.org).

Doty has long been fascinated with Oakland's one-of-a-kind Howden Building. He traced its history and learned that it opened as a showroom fore a family owned-tile business founded in the 1920s by Robert Howden and sons Robert Jr. and James.

During his research, Doty was even able to track down Robert Howden's grandson, now in his 80s, who provided more background about the company.

The Howden Tile Company's typical customers at that time were moving into new Arts and Crafts style homes in areas such as Rockridge, Piedmont and Trestle Glen.

Interestingly enough, for his practice, Doty frequently is contacted by local homeowners from those neighborhoods who seek advice about the best way to preserve and maintain their tile fireplaces, and their kitchens and bathrooms.

At the conclusion of the July 20 tour, participants will have an opportunity to see inside the Howden Building and view historic photos of the buildings seen on the walk.

Contact the Oakland Heritage Alliance at 510-763-9218 to request a copy of the July and August summer walks.

To learn more about Artistic License, go to http://artisticlicense.org.

Contact Annalee Allen at ldmksldy@aol.com or 510-238-3234.