Manufacturers: Buffalo China, Syracuse China
User: The Homestead, Hot Springs, Va.
Pattern name: Syracuse underglaze border #91801
Distributor (Buffalo): Kniffin & Demarest Co., New York
Distributor (Syracuse): W.C. Ayres Co., Philadelphia
Date of Buffalo tray: unknown
Date of Syracuse platter: 1956
Notes: Now the massive Omni Homestead Resort (2022), the first building on the site – constructed in 1766 – was an 18-room log hotel on 300 acres west of Virginia's Shenandoah Valley that was called Hot Springs for the mineral "healing" springs found on the land. In the 19th century a wooden hotel was added in stages.
It was in 1881 that M.E. Ingalls, a lawyer for the Chesapeake and Ohio Railroad Company (who would by 1888 become its president), accidentally happened upon the hotel while surveying the surrounding area for a new rail line. Ingalls in 1891 partnered with financier John P. Morgan and other investors to buy the hotel (without any ownership whatsoever by the C&O) with the company name Virginia Hot Springs Co., and with Ingalls as president.
By 1911, after a major fire in 1901 that spared only a few cottages and the spa building, Ingalls and his family became the sole owners of The Homestead and continued an expansion of the property, with the final major addition added in 1973.
The Homestead was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1984, became a charter member of Historic Hotels of American in 1989, and was named a U.S. National Historic Landmark in 1991.
In 1993, The Ingalls family sold ownership to Club Resorts; it was sold again in 2001; and by 2013 it was sold yet again to current owners, Omni Hotels & Resorts.
It was the early ownership by Ingalls – despite there being no financial connection between the resort and the C&O Railroad – that encouraged the false assumption that The Homestead was owned by the railroad. This was unknowingly perpetuated in "Dining on Rails" and "Teapot Treasury" and has added considerable cachet among collectors to china used at The Homestead for only that reason. In particular, its early china with floral border pattern and shield with words "Virginia Hot Springs" has come to be commonly – but erroneously – known as associated with the C&O.
That said, china from The Homestead should not be considered to be railroad china or railroad-related but still beautiful and collectible in its own right as coming from one of America's grand hotels.
This border pattern of small flowers in predominately blue, green and red was originally designed in 1921 by Ralph E. Stuart of Buffalo, N.Y. for distributor Kniffin & Demarest, who initially produced the pattern to be manufactured by Buffalo.
The Syracuse underglazed pattern #91801 is found in a binder of Syracuse patterns and identified therein as Virginia Hot Springs.
A decal crest interrupts the floral border at the top. It is periwinkle blue, outlined in red, depicting a spring in the center. Below is a ribbon outlined in red with the words: Virginia Hot Springs. Orders for a cup and saucer with this pattern were found to have been placed with Syracuse on March 11, 1938 and March 9, 1942, respectively. W.C. Ayres Company of Philadelphia was distributor.
For related info:
Homestead 2, The – Virginia, by Mayer and Homer Laughlin
Homestead 3, The – Virginia, Nature Study plates by Syracuse
Homestead 4, The – Virginia, by Syracuse
Homestead 5, The – Virginia, by Syracuse
Homestead Restaurant, The, – Illinois, by Syracuse (unrelated)
Virginia Department of Historic Resources