Serving up style with not-so-typical dinnerware Linthicum man's hobby reveals past splendors

March 18, 1996|By Consella A. Lee | Consella A. Lee,SUN STAFF

Many of Baltimore's grand hotels the Southern, the Park Plaza, the Raleigh may be gone, but a glimpse of their style and service is on display in Larry R. Paul's basement in Linthicum.

For 20 years, Mr. Paul has collected the china that graced the tables and rooms of those hotels. He has place settings from the Emerson, once a Baltimore Street institution, and butter dishes, eggcups and fruit cups from the Southern, the Park Plaza and the Kernan.

And he has old china from hotels that are still in business.

Mr. Paul recently showed a visitor an ornate serving plate once used at the Lord Baltimore Hotel. The colorful plate depicts the "Planting of the Colony of Maryland" and is inscribed with the date the first English settlers landed on St. Clements Island, March 25, 1634.

"You never ate on these or cut anything on them like steak. They were show plates," said Mr. Paul, 60. "If that was on the table when you first went in, it would have been gone by the time you left."

The plates are on shelves, in display cases and tucked into a row of drawers.

Mr. Paul began collecting before he retired from the display department of Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. four years ago,

He said he has never stayed or eaten in a fancy hotel but was drawn to the craftsmanship in the designs etched on the pieces. He said he marveled at the decorative pink roses sketched on the borders of plates and the tiny figures. "I think that one of the things that appealed to me is the detail these people went to make a presentation in the dining room," Mr. Paul said.

The hotel dining rooms had china for just about everything, from butter chips to eggs. Mr. Paul said his favorites are celery trays because of their varied shapes. To find new pieces, Mr. Paul combs flea markets, antiques shops, yard sales and restaurant supply companies. He said he has found pieces for 25 cents or 50 cents and tries not to spend more than $40 or $50 on a single piece.

His wife, Carroll, said she doesn't mind that the collection takes up so much room in their basement because the hobby is "a creative outlet for him."

The china reminds him of a time when hotel patrons expected to be pampered and hotels delivered, Mr. Paul said.

"It was just a way of life," he said. "As you can see, a lot of hotels were doing it, and if they weren't, it didn't speak well of your place."

Such service "was a fad or style that went out of existence," he said.

Pub Date: 3/18/96

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