Tea House moves with McCormick


October 22, 1991|By Edward Gunts

McCormick & Co.'s cinnamon-scented spice plant may have been torn down three years ago, but its famous Tea House lives on at the company's new headquarters in Sparks.

More than 100 McCormick employees, board members and guests -- including hostesses dressed in flowery hoop skirts -- gathered yesterday to rededicate the Elizabethan-style Tea House, whose front wall was dismantled stone by stone and carefully re-erected inside McCormick's $13 million world headquarters at 18 Loveton Circle.

Also on display yesterday were McCormick's spice museum, period furniture and artifacts, and sections of the Edwin Tunis murals that were salvaged from the old building. Over a large stone fireplace that was relocated as part of the Tea House is a saying attributed to company founder Willoughby McCormick: "Make the best; someone will buy it."

Looking at it all, one could almost detect a scent of cinnamon in the air -- a trademark of the Inner Harbor spice factory that stood on Light Street from 1921 to 1988. McCormick shifted its headquarters to Hunt Valley after selling its real estate holdings that year to a group headed by the Rouse Co. and leased space for its headquarters until moving to its own building last month.

"That Tea House was the philosophical heart of our downtown operation," said Charles P. "Buzz" McCormick Jr., chairman of McCormick and Co. "We hope that wherever we move, the Tea House will move with it."

Although employees and company visitors can use the Tea House, it won't be open for regular public tours, as it was in the Inner Harbor. Mr. McCormick said that the Tea House was created in the 1930s by his father, who also headed the company, as an expression of its "friendship, cooperation and teamwork."

"My dad had been a peddler, and in the course of visiting other businesses he had to sit and wait on a lot of cold, hard benches," Mr. McCormick said. "He wanted to treat his own visitors more graciously, by offering them a warm, comfortable place to sit down and [have] a cup of coffee or tea. They may walk away without an order, but they would have nice things to say about the company."

Although the Tea House and museum are in a slightly different configuration than when they were on the seventh floor of the Light Street building, but they are not replicas, said Frank Dabkowski, manager of property operations. "We dismantled every stone, and videotaped the front of the Tea House and the front of the museum," he said. "All of this is exactly the way it was."

McCormick's six-level headquarters houses 200 employees who oversee its operations, including another 1,800 workers in Hunt Valley and 7,600 worldwide.

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