A little bit of local history

Posted by Kirsti Scott on

You never know what you might end up learning when you pick up a piece of sea glass or sea pottery on the beach. The other day, a couple of people (@traces.of.time and @ashes_of_beauty) posted pictures of the pottery they find along the beach in Monterey and a few other people (including me) said that we find that same pattern, too. I asked where it came from and the person said it was from the Hotel Del Monte, which operated in Monterey, California from 1880-1942.

That started my search.

I first googled Hotel Del Monte and found out it had been one of the finest luxury hotels in North America. I then looked for examples of the hotel's china, place settings, anything, but only turned up one image that looked like mine. It was for sale on eBay and said that it was "Southern Pacific Railroad Dining Car China in the Sorrento Pattern, which was never marked for the railroad."

At first thought maybe the pieces we were finding had been used on trains at the time, but then I noticed that it said was "never marked for the railroad." Back to the internet, where I read that Charles Crocker, one of California's Big Four railroad barons, established the resort through Southern Pacific Railroad's property division. And, further research showed that the hotels in the railroad's property division used the railroad dining car china. The Sorrento pattern was first produced by Syracuse in 1924.

All of these shards of pottery made their way to the beach because the dump was located there until 1954. Broken plates and cups would have been discarded and would have ended up at the dump, where they were washed into the surf.

I thought the pieces I found on the beach were pretty recent because they were so well preserved, but it turns out they were built to last, with extra thick walls and durable bottoms. The heavy weight insured they would stay relatively still even on a moving train and would last in a busy hotel dining room, and it also kept the pieces looking pretty good, even after years of tumbling in the surf. I kind of feel bad drilling through this little piece of pottery to make a necklace, but wearing it is a way to have a little bit of Monterey history with you wherever you go.

Next time you find something on the beach, see if you can find out where it came from and bring a little of your local history to life.

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