Saturday, January 28, 2017

It Will Last A Lifetime... Sterling Silver Flatware

Long ago in a galaxy far way, nope wrong story, but those sentiments may seem that way to many. It wasn't too many years ago, and perhaps one or two generations, but sterling silver flatware was not quite as uncommon on some dinner tables as it is today.


If we think about items which hold their value and can be passed from one generation to another, items made of silver are one of those pieces. In the 18th century, silver teaspoons were much more common today, and sometime the only silver found within a household. By the very nature of the metal, silver, they had value beyond the utilitarian nature of their form.

In the 19th century, and into the 20th century, silver flatware (utensils used at the table for eating and serving food) sets became more elaborate, with specialized pieces for all sort of specialized food items. It was quite common for brides to register for silver flatware and be given place settings as wedding gifts by close family friends.

This ended during the social upheaval of the late 1960s, when some women rejected the traditional, and made more difficult when silver prices spiked in 1979-1980, which cause a rise in silver prices and further marking the decline of silver flatware in homes.

In this day of the appreciation for fine dining, both in restaurants, and also in the gourmet kitchens in modern homes, there is no better way to appreciate food that with silver flatware. Why? Because unlike stainless, it affects the taste of food much less, allowing you to enjoy the pure flavors of food, unlike stainless.

As an added benefit, there is the fact that silver, unlike stainless can and is passed down from generation to generation. For those who are concerned about recycling, there is no better way of doing so than passing down items which require no refabrication to ensure they are used again for their intended purpose by a new generation.

Some complain about the high maintenance costs of using silver, but that only happens when it is not used and contrary to many opinions, silver can be placed in the dish washer. And the more often you use silver, the less of a chance for it to tarnish. Tarnished silver is inactive silver and anyone who wears silver jewelry will attest that the more they wear it the less it tarnishes.

According to Beverly Bremer Silver Shop in Atlanta, Georgia, "washing silver immediately after use helps prevent tarnish. Tarnish is caused by sulfides from food, contact with rubber or smoke and gas in the air. If food is left on silver for periods as short as one hour, it can stain sterling. Be especially wary of foods such as mayonnaise, vinegar, and eggs. If you cannot wash your sterling immediately after use, rinse it thoroughly, but do not leave to soak."

They go on to say that "most sterling flatware, except for knives, may be placed in the dishwasher. For best results, remove flatware before the drying cycle begins and dry throughout with a soft, cotton cloth. When you use the dishwasher for cleaning, use a mild, non-citrus detergent, do not overcrowd the flatware baskets, and take care not to place sterling in direct contact with stainless steel. Do not dry on a high heat cycle."

They further recommend the "use of a soft cloth, mild detergent, and hot water to clean silver. Avoid all citrus detergents as they can cause rust spots on silver handles and blades. Never use abrasive pads or steel wool to remove debris. Dry silver immediately after washing with a soft cloth to prevent water spots. Avoid placing silver on hot surfaces such as heating elements, or near open flames."  

Regarding knife blades they state that "the blades of sterling silver place knives are made of a harden-able grade of stainless steel. This grade of stainless, while resistant to most foods or chemicals in the home, is subject to pitting under certain conditions. The conditions that most commonly cause pitting are long contact with chloride-containing foods such as salt, salad dressing, etc. or soaking in water.
Prolonged soaking (i.e. overnight) in water must be avoided especially where several pieces may be in close contact during the soaking period. The “rinse and hold” cycle on an automatic dishwasher is particularly hard on cutlery because the pieces are warm and wet for an extended period of time. Best care for your cutlery is to wash and dry as soon as practical after using, either by hand or on a fast cycle in the dishwasher."

Yes, silver costs more, but so does organic foods and craft made anything. It is not just an investment today, but it is an investment in the future.

You don't need to buy a whole set all at once, but you can buy a piece at a time, seeking out vintage sets. Or you can be creative, avoiding an entire table set with the same pattern, and pick pieces and services you like, mixing and matching vintage and antique to create a unique table setting, while at the same time "recycling" flatware in a way only silver can "recycle."

So don't give up on silver flatware as a thing of the past, unsuited to modern living, explore it as a new way of living with a nod to our past and the craftsmanship of another generation, still adaptable to today's smart living.

Monday, December 12, 2016

The Christmas Revels...

There is no doubt that there is some Christmas album out there for everyone and every taste. Some are classics, some are trendy, and some are downright awful... and some are magnificent...



Founded in Cambridge, Massachusetts in 1971, the Revels are now in nine additional cities, all producing The Christmas Revels, in addition to other programs.

The original performance was recorded and is now available on CD. This was the original medieval Christmas Revels which started this 40+ year tradition. Stereo Review called it "The best Christmas record I can think of..." The Washington Post said it was "A simple, revealing album that will last through many winters." And The Boston Phoenix called it "A joyous reminder of what the season is all about."

It might not be for everyone, but I find peace in the music in a season obscured by commercialism and a frantic pace from which we could all use and enjoy an escape. So take time out this Christmas season and relax for a bit while enjoying this holiday classic.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Before the Ban Part 2 - Pre-Prohibition Baltimore Breweries - The August Beck/Frank Steil Brewery

Now long forgotten to history, Baltimore was once a major brewing city with over 45 breweries operating at one time. In this series, I hope to bring to life this long lost history.

The August Beck's Lager Beer Brewery was established on Garrison Road, now South Franklintown Road by August Beck in 1861.

August Beck's Lager Beer Brewery 1869

Beck was born in 1821 in Rottenburg, Wurtenburg and was married to Frederica Beck.
Employing 12-15 men, in 1878 the brewery sold 7,706 barrels of beer and in 1879 it sold 6,935 barrels of beer.

1887 Advertisement 
By the time of Back's death in 1880, the brewery complex consisted of a number of buldings. There was a recently built 40'x40' dwelling house with a mansard roof and a two story 24'x24' brick back building which served as the residence of August Beck. There was a two story brick 40'x140' beer brewery, beer cellar, engine house, office and ice house.Just north of Beck's dwelling house was a two story brick house which was used as a dwelling house and a beer saloon. Behind this was a 24'x120' two story brick building used as a stable and adjoining this was a 24'x70' brick wagon shed. At the rear of the property was a 40'x95' large frame "sommerhaus" built for and used as a beer and concert hall. Also on the property was a brick stable for cows, a small frame cooper shop and an open frame shed. The brewery itself contained 8 large fermenting tubs of 300 barrels each and 16 fermenting tubs of 600 barrels each, 2 maish tubs, 2 large copper kettles and a beer cooler. There was also four large double and three single beer wagons. The brewery had the capacity to produce 10,000 to 12,000 barrels of beer per year.

1888 Advertisement

In 1881 the brewery was sold to August Beck, son of the founder.

John Marr, formerly of Bauernschmidt & Marr, bought the brewery in 1899 to run it as John Marr's Independent Brewery, under the management of Frank Steil. The brewery went bankrupt and in December 1900 was purchased by Steil, operating under the name of the Frank Steil Brewing Company. In 1913, Steil added a 45'x46' bottling house designed by George Repp.


With prohibition, the brewery was converted into a slaughter house and meat packing plant.

1908 Advertisement

Some of the brewery survives today. The most obvious survivor is the former house of August Beck built in 1875. The two story beer saloon and the row of buildings behind it were torn down sometime between 1983 and 2016. As late as 1983 the beer cellars below this row of buildings survived, but it is unknown if they survived the demolition of the buildings themselves. The brewhouse itself burned in 1969 and has been replaced by a more recent structure.




A. Beck's Brewery 1890
200 South Franklintown Road

Frank Steil Brewing Company (formerly A. Beck's Brewery) 1901
200 South Franklintown Road

Frank Steil Brewing Company (formerly A. Beck's Brewery) 1914
200 South Franklintown Road

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Before the Ban Part 1 - Pre-Prohibition Baltimore Breweries - The Bauernschmidt & Marr Spring Garden Brewery

Now long forgotten to history, Baltimore was once a major brewing city with over 45 breweries operating at one time. In this series, I hope to bring to life this long lost history.

The Spring Garden Brewery was established on Stowman's Hill by John Jacob Bauernschmidt  in 1859 as John Bauernschmidt's Lager Brewery. Bauernschmidt was born in 1830 in Wambach, Bavaria and was married to Elizabeth Marr Bauernschmidt. Bauernschmidt enlarged the brewery several times, adding a saloon and inn before his death in 1879. The brewery originally featured wood fired copper kettles and cypress wash tubs. In 1878 the brewery sold 12,017 barrels of beer and in 1879 it sold 10,037 barrels of beer.

John Bauernschmidt's Lager Beer Brewery 1869


Bird's Eye View of John Bauernschmidt's Lager Beer Brewery 1869

After Bauernschmidt's death, his wife's brother, John Marr, joined the brewery operating as Bauernschmidt & Marr.


Elizabeth Bauernschmidt died in 1886 and the brewery was purchased in 1889 by British interests. Marr continued to manage the brewery under the name Bauernschmidt & Marr's Spring Garden Brewery.


Baltimore American News 1886 Advertisement

The name of the brewery changed again in 1892, now known as Baltimore Breweries Company Ltd.'s Spring Garden Brewery.

Baltimore American News 1894 Advertisement


In 1902 it was purchased by Frank Steil Brewing Company, becoming its Spring Garden Brewery. In 1903 the brewery closed, and was purchased in 1905 by the Mount Vernon Brewing Company of New Jersey, reopening in 1906 as the Mount Vernon Brewery. They built a 72'x40' one story bottling plant along Ridgely Street in 1905 built by B.W. &E. Minor and designed by W.L. Minor. The brewery fell into receivership and was sold to L.F. Ruth, R. Marietta and Clair Stellwagon. In 1908 the brewery was bought by Conrad Eurich, but it went into receivership that same year and closed for good in 1909. Then in 1909 the brewery was sold Gustav A. Bachman who planned to open the site as the Consumers Brewing Company of Baltimore City. In 1911 it was again sold at a receivers sale. In 1912, Joseph H. Straus and Alexander L. Straus were rumored to buy the Mount Vernon Brewery to operate it as an independent brewery, but they bought the Standard Brewery instead.


Today parts of the brewery still remain. Bauernschmidt's house, which also some of his workers, was built in the early 1870's, but was torn down some time between 1980 and 2016. It was a three and a half story, almost cubical, brick house, five bays wide on all sides, with a hipped roof. Marr lived in this house until at least 1890. But 1901 the first floor was being used for bottling with lodging rooms above.

A 14 bay long brick bottling plant lies along Ridgely Street. It appears that the brew house also survives on this site.

Bauerschmidt and Marr Brewery 1890
1500 Ridgely Street

 Spring Garden Brewery (formerly the Bauerschmidt and Marr Brewery) 1901
1500 Ridgely Street

 Site of the Mt. Vernon Brewing Company (formerly the Spring Garden Brewery) 1914
1500 Ridgely Street

Monday, June 27, 2016

Crowning The Gravelly Hill... Part 11

Part eleven of the series...


Residence of Harry Billington Rosston - 318 Woodlawn Road






Designed by W.L. Price of Philadelphia and built by the Roland Park Company between 1893 and May 1896.

The views show a design appropriate to its surroundings, the broad treatment of the roof and gable ends being the principal features of the design. There is a wide, well shaded porch, with square columns on stone piers, supporting the high hipped and overhanging gable roofs. The foundation and a portion of the first story, as well as the main chimney of rock-faced local stone, laid with joints well broken and with good color effect. The other chimneys of is brick, and stone capped. All exterior framework is sheathed, covered with building paper, shingled, and originally stained deep red. The roof was originally similarly treated. Dimensions: Front, 31'3", exclusive of bay; side, 62'7", not including porch projections. Heights: Cellar, 7'6"; first story, 9'; second, 8'6"; attic, 7'6".

The reception hall, running full width of the house and finished in red oak, has a wide arched opening, forming a separating feature from the staircase portion, with the fireplace centered, and faced with tiles, a mantel over.

Reception Hall looking into the Parlor ahead and Reception room to right 2015

There is wide staircase of easy rise, with turned balusters and plain square newel, and a leaded landing window. The walls were originally papered.

The parlor also has a tiled (angle) fireplace, with a mantel of neat design above, and connects by pocket doors.

 Parlor 2015

Dining room, finished natural, has double sliding door opening, bay full width, and connects with kitchen, containing usual fixtures, through pantry, provided with dressers, sink, etc.

Dining Room 2015
Kitchen 2015
The laundry in rear has three wash trays. The second floor is divided into four chambers, the connecting one intended for a dressing room, and a bathroom with the plumbing exposed and with approved fixtures.

Principal Chamber over parlor 2015
Bedroom over kitchen 2015
Bedroom over kitchen 2015
Bathroom 2015

There is a large linen closet, provided with shelves, etc. The attic has a servant's rooms and storage space. The cellar is cemented, and is provided with heating apparatus, fuel storage space, etc.

Friday, June 24, 2016

Crowning The Gravelly Hill... Part 10

Part ten of the series...


Country House of John W. McPherson, Esq. - 415 Hawthorne Road





Designed by Wyatt & Nolting of Baltimore and built between 1893 and May 1896.

McPherson was one of the original members of the Baltimore Country Club.

This country house represents a Colonial residence, embracing both symmetry of design and convenience of arrangement. The piazza is cozily sheltered and of inviting appearance, with Tuscan columns and pilaster at shingled jambs. The bay at side gives ease to and relieves the severity of roof lines. Shingles on roof were originally weathered, and on the side originally stained snuff brown. The trimmings were originally of cream color, contrasted by dark green shutters. The chimney is of red brick, with bluestone coping. Dimensions: Front, exclusive of bay, 30'2"; side, 51'4". Heights: Cellar, 8'6"; first story, 10'3"; second, 9'7"; attic, 7'6". On the first floor we have an attractive reception hall, paneled in cypress. The staircase has spindle balusters reaching to the under side of a flat arch adorning the ceiling. The angle fireplace is paneled. The back stairs are conveniently connecting with the main staircase at the landing. The library contains an angular fireplace, with a marble mantel supported by two brackets. The dining room was originally in white, with an ornamental frieze, ans also contains a cheerful fireplace of neat design. The kitchen and pantry are each provided with a dresser with drawers under shelves. In attic there is one large bedroom, a servant's bedroom, and convenient storage accommodations.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Crowning The Gravelly Hill... Part 9

Part nine of the series...


Cottage of James F. Leib, Esq. - 502 Woodlawn Road






Designed by the owner James F. Leib of Baltimore and built between June 1893 and May 1896.

On June 23, 1893 Leib purchased this lot for $1500 from the Roland Park Company.

He was one of the original members of the Baltimore Country Club and an 1890 graduate of the Mechanical Division of the  Maryland Institute College of Art.

The views show a front piazza, with four stone piers to the height of rail, forming base for square columns supporting the overhanging gable roof, which is relieved by the wide, hipped-roof dormers in front and rear. The foundation and piers are of local stone. The structure above is sheathed, papered, clapboarded, and was originally painted yellow at  the first story. The gable is shingled and was originally stained brown. The roof was also originally shingled, and left to weather. The chimneys are of brick, and capped with stone. Dimensions: Front, 29', exclusive of entrance porch; side, 40', including piazza. Height: Cellar, 6'6"; first story, 9'; second, 8'6"; attic, 7'. The entrance porch is at the side, with the door opening on the hall, in white pine,  and grained oak. The staircase has wide newels, with paneled faces and a flat cap. The turned balusters are on a straight string. A pocket door opens on the music room, in pine, was painted white, with an angle fireplace, faced with light gray mottled tiles. The mantel, also painted, has an ornamental top and beveled mirror. The library connects by pocket doors. It has a similar fireplace, with tiles of light mottled brown, and mantel above, and is backed with a mirror. This room also has a glazed door to front piazza, and really serves purpose of reception hall or living room. The dining room has a fireplace, also tiled. The upper mantelshelf is supported by two long fluted columns. Two shorter ones support the side shelves. A beveled mirror is at the head. A passage, with a pantry at the side, leads to the kitchen. A wide, circular arch, with a large, central electric light globe, forms an interesting feature in the second floor hall. This floor is divided off into four chambers of good size, two with alcoves (circular plaster arches), and all with large closets. There is also a bathroom, wainscoted in yellow pine, natural. All the plumbing being exposed and nickel-plated, a tub of enameled iron, and a basin of marble. All of these were of the best make. There are two rooms in attic. The house is trimmed throughout in white pine, grained or painted, lighted by electricity and gas, heated by hot air and cost complete $3500; The cellar is cemented, and contains the heater, fuel storage, etc.