Hunting for China

On October 1, the board of the 1900 theater is having their meeting at the Cross House, and dinner will be served.


Last November, I had my first (and only) dinner in the house, my Day-After-Thanksgiving gala.

We used paper plates and plastic cup and plastic forks. And I was surprised at how, ah, grim this was. Because the dining room looks like a bomb has gone off in it with massive holes in the walls and ceiling, and with wires dangling, I had not thought that paper and plastic would matter. It did. I had underestimated the innate elegance of the dining room, its condition notwithstanding. It is a room which requires china. And crystal glassware.

So, back to October 1.

I have been frantically searching for a set of good china. For four decades I have walked by countless sets of china in antique stores and flea markets with nary a moment of consideration given. Why would I ever want or need a china set for twelve for?

Yet, here I am. Lusting after a china set for twelve.

First, I began a search for Haviland china, because my grandmother owned a complete set so this is hardwired in my memory. I went to eBay and the pieces which looked sorta kinda like what my grandmother owned (very elaborate and almost certainly from the Victorian-era) were scary expensive even for a single piece.


This Haviland pattern was introduced in 1894, the same year the Cross house was built! But this single small plate was $18! I would be afraid to ever use it!


While the above plate was marked HAVILAND on the back, it had no pattern name. This would make it nearly impossible to ever find a complete set (assuming I won the lottery).

So, fond memories aside, I immediately gave up on finding Grandma’s china.


Then I found a 1939 pattern by Noritake, their Bancroft pattern. I thought this would look really good in the Cross House.


The set was for twelve and nearly complete. But it was $500. And I sooooooooooo was not willing to spend $500, even though I understand this is a good price for a set of fine china. I just could not get out of my head the sets that I spent four decades passing up for like $80!

However, Bancroft pieces were readily available on eBay and Replacements so I would not worry about a piece breaking. And I could easily find the pieces missing from the set.

But still.


One seller had twelve place settings in the original boxes of this Anthemion pattern by Palazzo. And the hardware in the Cross House abounds with the anthemion motif. I don’t think the set is very old.


The set was but $20 a 7-piece place setting ($240 total for a set of twelve) but the shipping was $180, or $420 total! Yikes! And, me being me, I would never be happy without the matching salt/pepper and gravy boat with plate and serving bowls and a tea set. Could I ever even find these pieces? And for how much?

Plus, I didn’t love the set.

And don’t love matter?


Then…then…I remembered that I already had a set of china. Sorta.


Years ago I purchased this highly incomplete set because it was like $20. And because it was very pretty.


I love this design and the unusual colors. The pattern was introduced in 1960.


And, the maker AND pattern is on the back! And who would not be thrilled to eat off Stardust?


The rich purple color would work in the dining room as that is the color the walls will be.

Excited, I began The Hunt For More.

An absurd amount of hours later, I was able to acquire more than I had initially thought possible, and all quite cheaply.

I now have:

  • Dinner plates: 12
  • Salad plates: 6
  • Bread butter plates: 12
  • Fruit bowls: 12
  • Soup bowls: 12
  • Large serving bowl: 3
  • Cake plate: 1
  • creamer/suger: 1
  • Tea cups: 8
  • Tea cup saucers: 12
  • Gravy boat & plate: 0
  • Salt/pepper: 0
  • Round covered votable bowl: 0

So, not complete but complete enough for October 1!


If somebody had told me not long ago that I would one day care about having a fine china set for twelve I would have laughed and laughed.

But this, apparently, is what great old houses do to people.




  1. belaat on September 19, 2018 at 1:44 pm

    Ross, here’s what I do when I have a large crowd, or even a small dinner where I like to use my china. I have received no less than 4 sets of china from grandmothers, aunts, and great aunts. All different, and all in varying state of completeness. So to use them, as they are all beautiful and old, I simply use them all to set my table. Each place setting has matching plates, cups, etc, but the table settings are not all the same. You would be surprised at how pretty it is, to see the differing tastes of the women who were important to my husband and I glittering together. To help tie the patterns together, I use golden chargers under each setting. Napkins matching would help too.

    • belaat on September 19, 2018 at 1:46 pm

      And, your stardust is just beyond sweetness.

  2. Jenine on September 19, 2018 at 1:48 pm

    Now all you need is the silverware. You realize that it has to match the style of the dinnerware, as in NOT plastic?

    • Ross on September 19, 2018 at 8:10 pm

      What, Jenine?

      Not even gold plastic?

  3. Stewart McLean on September 19, 2018 at 2:00 pm

    -Try a conventional auction house in your area. Sets of really good quality porcelain are selling for under $100 for complete sets. This is not necessarily true when the sale is an auction house’s premier auctions, but for your very day estate sale auctions, where they gather the contents of a lot of estates to sell it often is. Consignors can be individuals who are downsizing or really anybody, but the majority are items that just didn’t appeal to the heirs of an estate.
    -The auction house that I regularly go to in Baltimore Has auctions every second and fourth Tuesday of every month. They show pictures of many of the items on line, but not everything. I am sure that there are such houses in every major city. If Kansas City is the closest major to you, ask someone who grew up there which one to choose. It can be a lot of fun.

    • Ross on September 19, 2018 at 8:11 pm

      Hi, Stewart!

      My STARDUST set is, as detailed above, now almost complete.

      • Stewart McLean on September 20, 2018 at 12:33 am

        Surely you don’t think, now that you have started looking at sets of china, that you will be able to stop with JUST ONE! Ha, Ha, Ha, Hee, Hee, Hee, Ho, Ho, Ho…… I didn’t think that you were so naive.

        • Jackie on September 20, 2018 at 12:24 pm

          HAHAHA, yeah I think Stewart’s nailed it here. Surely the need to be able to set the table completely, with crystal and silver, will be next…

          Now THAT would look visually amazing, the room in its current state, but beneath the glittery chandelier, a table set with beautiful china and sparkling glassware and cutlery, candles and flowers too, all on the noble drop-cloth, of course!

          Will there be a Thanksgiving get-together again this year? I’ve been wondering about this.

  4. Miriam Righter on September 19, 2018 at 2:09 pm

    Ross, I love the idea of mismatched sets at each place setting. You can do the same with sterling flatware too. That is what I have done all my life. I have picked up various pieces here and there, but not a complete set. (Actually, when I inherited a complete set, I gave it to a nephew for a wedding present since it was too heavy for my taste!) And I adore your Stardust pattern. The Haviland that your grandmother had was one of the best pieces they made- gorgeous but not as readily available as others. My mom had a green ivy pattern, more dainty than your grandmother’s. I have seen it often in antique stores around Iowa for next to nothing.

  5. Dan Goodall-Williams on September 19, 2018 at 2:26 pm

    I love your pattern Ross. Elegant but not over-the-top. And silver doesn’t have to be sterling. Or you may want gold-plated.

    Auction is the way to go for china and silver though. Glad it’s working out though with your pattern.

    I have slowly acquired a silver-plate set from 1847 Roger’s Bros. It’s the Savoy pattern from 1892. All from Ebay.

  6. S. Owen on September 19, 2018 at 2:47 pm

    Don’t forget glasses! My mother has a set of China from the 30’s from her grandmother and although it has a whole set of tea glasses she purchased a set of fine crystal glasses to go with them, when I was a junior (which was only three years ago) in highschool I tried alcohol for the first time by putting rum in one of the smallest crystal glasses in the set and it felt so classy until I realized I didn’t like alcohol lol! Our China matches our buffet if that makes any sense, it’s a mission style buffet so the simplicity of the china works well!

  7. Jennifer Bayles on September 19, 2018 at 3:52 pm

    You’re playing my song! I have a ridiculous antique Haviland collection, and as my Grandma said, “It’s French, not that… American junk, darling!” You won’t find pattern names on old Haviland as that didn’t happen until after WW II, I believe. Thanks to the war, manufacturing moved to the States, and you’ll notice those pieces are much thicker than the pre-war pieces. After two world wars, they couldn’t get enough of the good kaolin clay from France. In the 1930’s and 40’s, Arlene Schleiger ran into the same problem trying to match replacements, and thus started a four volume bible of patterns she identified and sketched. I’m sure you ran across “Schleiger number” references in your eBay search – that’s where they came from.

    My best find was a pre-Civil War David Haviland coffee pot, white with the gold band around the top and ivy on the lid rose finial. It was ten bucks at a garage sale. EEK! One of the best dinner parties I ever threw was a 19 course meal with a bunch of our biker friends. Yes, I said bikers. As in Harley-Davidson motorcycle enthusiasts. LOL! All the Haviland and old silver and crystal got pressed into service and each person took a turn serving and clearing a course. It went on for hours and people still talk about it years later. I much prefer to see these old pieces used and enjoyed, and I’m willing to take the risk of breaking one as long as it happens in the course of making people happy. I’m very much looking forward to pictures of your event!

    • Ross on September 19, 2018 at 8:16 pm

      Thank you, Jennifer!

      LOVE the story of bikers and fine china!

  8. Bob Murray on September 19, 2018 at 4:10 pm

    You could just rent everything you need for the evening. I’ve only done it once but it was great that we didn’t need to even wash them….just put them back in the crates and dropped them off.

  9. Randy C on September 19, 2018 at 5:11 pm

    While I am excited that you have found your china, I must say that I attended your Day After Thanksgiving dinner and I didn’t find it “grim” at all. I thought it most appropriate to use paper/plastic in a room where a bomb had gone off! LOL, really, I thought it was fun to use make-do tableware since we were at the time in a make-do dining room with food in the make-do kitchen. I would have been fine using planks held up between ladders as tables. After all, we were all there for the fellowship and to enjoy your “in-progress” home. Now when the dining room is complete and oh, so elegant, my thoughts might be different.
    Nevertheless, happy hunting for your silver.

    • Ross on September 19, 2018 at 8:18 pm

      Hi, Randy!

      EEK! I did not mean to to suggest the event last November was grim. Just that paper plates and plastic forks was grim! And I hold to that!

  10. Bethany Otto on September 19, 2018 at 6:01 pm

    I wish that I lived close enough to loan you my grandmother’s gorgeous silver flatware with more than twelve settings and multiple serving pieces. It’s my joy to use it on holidays. Besides the sentimental attachment, I love the feeling of the heavy silver in my hands.

    • Ross on September 19, 2018 at 8:19 pm

      Hi, Bethany!

      You should be glad you live so far away. For, if you loaned me gorgeous silver flatware you would not, I suspect, get it back.

  11. Barb Sanford on September 19, 2018 at 6:13 pm

    That china pattern is so pretty! And it has a lovely name to match. I’m hoping you post photos of your beautiful table, all set and ready for company.

    • Ross on September 19, 2018 at 8:19 pm

      Good idea, Barb!

      • Barb Sanford on September 20, 2018 at 8:34 am

        And — when the dust finally settles inside your house — I’m looking forward to seeing the china happily in place in your beautiful china cabinet.

  12. Jae23 on September 19, 2018 at 6:34 pm

    I’m from Alliance Ohio!! I had no idea beautiful china was once produced there. I’ll keep an eye out for matching pieces for you!

  13. Mary Garner-Mitchell on September 19, 2018 at 6:55 pm

    Hello. My name is Mary, and I’m a China-a-holic!!
    Ross. I so wish we lived close to one another as I would gladly let you “shop” (borrow) from among my collection of china patterns!! I have lost count (control?) of the various patterns I have collected. My grandmother’s every day pattern was Johnson Brother’s “Garden Bouquet” and I (ashamedly) admit to having 26+ place complete settings, and every serving piece times 2!!). Setting a table is my favorite thing in the world to do. (I’ll add here that I have in my design portfolio six patterns, all manufactured in Limoges, France, for a former and favorite client — see BTW… for those who may not know, Haviland is/was just one of the porcelain factories in Limoges. Anyway, some of my favorite table settings is a marriage of several patterns and eras. I happen to love your “Stardust” motif and designs of that era! I find most of my pieces at charity and thrift shops and estate sales.

  14. Paul on September 19, 2018 at 8:02 pm

    My mother had a set of Ahrenfeldt. Incomplete, I think they bought it at an Antique store. I was the heir to this set, and over the course of years was able to almost complete a service for 12. It’s a numbered pattern on Replacements – AHR389. I am definitely on board with you about about using beautiful china in that amazing dining room. And, I get the desire to have something like your grandmothers pattern decorating the table. You are so diligent with all the aspects of Cross House, of course you should gussy it up with beautiful china, and silver, and crystal!

    • Ross on September 19, 2018 at 8:08 pm

      Hi, Paul!

      I checked out your pattern.


      And Replacements is totally out of stock! I have never been that before.

  15. nathan davis on September 19, 2018 at 9:32 pm

    Well it seems you already have most of a complete set, but nonetheless I will add idea to the mix. When I needed a dinner service what I did was scour flea markets and antique stores for nice antique dishes, and I decided I was going to have them totally mismatched. It was wonderful as I was able to just let my magpie instincts go wild, to not even color coordinate them TOO much. And so I have a dinner service for eight with dishes from every decade from the 1870s up to the 1960s. And they all come together to make a beautiful, coherent, and surprisingly martha stewart-esque table setting. And what’s more, each individual piece makes me smile. Sometimes i go through them and take each one out to admire individually just for fun. And i didnt pay more than 3 dollars for any individual piece(except for a gothic serving bowl which I absolutely had to have)

  16. nathan davis on September 19, 2018 at 9:33 pm

    Also that china that your grandmother had is STUNNING! reminds me of limoges ceramics

  17. Sandra Lee on September 19, 2018 at 10:13 pm

    Ross why not use gold ware, I have a mixture of 24 K electroplated & I think stainless steel underneath or get plate instead of sterling; I mix & match as my Lenox Eternal China is timeless & I can always get replacements…. I mix & match my bone China & Lenox.. looks like Imari but German… I think whatever you have is lovely …

    I would just have each place have the Eternal with the gold band & the gold ware & the other China with either sterling or plate. Each place complete w whichever motif I was going w & crystal was always Waterford Lismore I have had for 45 years…I wish I was closer & I would just drop off the extra pieces & my gold & silver flatware…& the crystal too …for you to use… but alas Im not… probably a good idea to invest in bar ware for drinking & wine glasses while the dining room is in disarray…& crystal later on…

    I agree that post Thanksgiving was just lovely & very w hodge podge & plastic & paper plates… like an indoor Thanksgiving picnic….just the best fun & all those wonderful. CRoss House enthusiasts! Just the best people & food… just wonderful…

    Not grim…shame on you Ross for calling our electic group fun day grim…bad Ross! Hahahahaha🤣

    • Ross on September 19, 2018 at 10:23 pm

      Sandra, I did NOT state that last year was a grim event! I stated that using paper and plastic was grim!

      And this year? JUST SAY NO to paper plates and plastic forks!

      BIG hug!

  18. Sandra Lee on September 19, 2018 at 10:41 pm

    I distinctly remember grim being the operative word… & not just the plastic cutlery & paper dishes….hahaha..bad Ross! Hahaha
    Hugs & Kisses Ross! You are so fun!

  19. aBell on September 19, 2018 at 11:15 pm

    I have more dishes than any one person should possess, even one who hosts family gatherings for 25 or more at least twice a year where all eat from “real” never paper plates, And we all, even the children, drink from glassware. Not a single piece of plastic flatware is used. While I do own several sets of fine china, we most often use my beloved and possibly out dated Pfaltzgraff, which I still love. I so wish I lived closer, I would gladly gift you with one, possibly two complete sets for twelve that were gifted to me recently. Friends moving to far off Seattle had their grandmother’s sets, and no one, not even the resale shops, would take them. It seems today’s young ones don’t want that old stuff. It seems to me most of them want the latest, trendy thing the stores are selling and when that fades from fashion, they drop it at the resale shop and run to the store to buy the new fad. My dear friend is a Waterford rep. She tells me it is hard to sell fine china and chrystal these days. Many years ago she told me she could always tell when brides were registering if they were from families who entertained. Those girls would register for place settings for twelve rather than eight.
    Eventually you will be ready to appoint the Cross House dining room in period style. And when you do, you may choose silver and chrystal rather than matchy-matchy china. That is when the fun begins as you learn about the endless number of silver serving pieces, each designed for a specific use.

    • Guinan on October 6, 2018 at 5:52 pm

      aBell, Your post brought back fond memories. I’m from York, Pennsylvania, where Pfaltzgraff was made. I still love my Yorktowne pattern (at least 12 place settings). I used to just drop into the seconds store and pick up any extra piece I might need for some occasion. Now that it’s made in China, there are no more seconds. Sadly, my kids couldn’t care less about it. They have their own taste.

  20. Chad on September 20, 2018 at 8:57 am

    FYI, my family is probably getting rid of this set sooner or later. (But if I made arrangements to give it away my sister would probably tear me a new asshole after years of saying she doesn’t want it.)

    • Guinan on October 6, 2018 at 5:54 pm

      Chad, This is lovely. I love violets

  21. pk on September 21, 2018 at 9:45 am

    I love your Stardust china and it’s going to look so great with the new color scheme of the walls! But best, I love the story attached to it.

  22. Jonathan W on September 21, 2018 at 2:23 pm

    Hey Ross! I LOVE that you’ve got a china set..My grandmother is cleaning house and I/my mother inherited her wedding china set…at least 50 years old and although it has missing pieces, I love it. As soon as I heard she was getting rid of it, I told me mom “GET IT NOW” she has 6 siblings and I was sure they were all going to fight over it, but we won it over relatively easy..She told me that no one these days wants the old stuff…I told her it’s completely false…I’m eager to display and use it in my own old house someday… I found the set online…here it is. I may match a future dining room with the china…

  23. Mary Garner-Mitchell on September 21, 2018 at 9:23 pm

    Jonathan W. That’s a gorgeous pattern!! Lucky you! I’m so encouraged by these comments in that folks still love setting a fine table!!

  24. Celeste on October 1, 2018 at 9:14 am

    Ross, it is October 1 and I am sending good wishes for your meeting and dinner at the Cross House. It looks like the old theatre is slowly coming to life and I’m sure board members will be pleased with the progress. Best wishes to you all.

  25. Guinan on October 6, 2018 at 5:55 pm

    Chad, This is lovely. I love violets

  26. Arkay on October 8, 2018 at 2:24 pm

    I, too, have so much china. But I use it.

    The Fiestaware is the everyday stuff that we selected for our retirement home. Spousal Unit loves it and demanded a set of 12 in all different colors. Looks great on the Mexican serape that we use for a tablecloth.

    Our wedding choice (42 years ago) was Wedgwood’s cream on lavender queensware. It comes out regularly, simply because I love it so.

    Then we received the Waechterbach Christmas tree stoneware, which is used everyday from the day after Thanksgiving to 6 January.

    Spousal Unit decided we needed real bone china, and so we got Royal Albert Old Country Roses. I never realized how much he likes bone china. We use it for every special occasion except Christmas and New Year’s and when I feel like Wedgwood, and just because.

    With all of them, we use the same stainless set, Madison by International Silver,
    and our crystal is Greenfield by Fostoria.

    None are antiques, but we love them all.

    Then there’s his grandmother’s bone china and crystal. The china is Lilybell by Noritake.

    The crystal is delicate and intricately etched with a flowery design. We don’t know what it is yet. Neither are to our taste, but Nephew is very interested, once he graduates from Army aviation training and lands on his next duty station.

    Congrats on such a lovely pattern, Ross. There are lots of silverware patterns that will compliment it — be patient and it will fall into your lap one day.

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