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Pottery Sherd from Tolfree's Saugus Eating House
Saugus, California

Pottery sherd attributed to Tolfree's Saugus Eating House, 1891-1905 (renamed Saugus Café in 1899). Found in 1980 during excavation following removal of the 1887 SPRR Saugus Depot from its original location on the east side of Railroad Avenue just south of today's Drayton Street.

Glazed earthenware, blue paint, gilt edge; 2.06x1.12 in. at widest, 0.2 in. (5mm) at thickest. Possibly from a dinner plate.

Luckily, the trademark imprint of W.M. Grindley & Co. is intact on the underside. Founded in 1880, W.M. Grindley was a pottery firm in Tunstall, Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire, England. (Staffordshire is known for fine china.) Grindley began using the place-name "England" (replacing "Tunstall") in its trademark symbol in 1891, giving us the earliest date of this sherd. The company used the globe and sailing ship symbol from 1891-1914, so the latest date (1905) derives from the time the diner moved out of the train depot. Source: ThePotteries.org.

The initials that partially appear below the trademark symbol are F and B, for "flow blue" ware. Invented in the late 1700s, flow blue was Staffordshire's answer to highly coveted but expensive Chinese porcelain. With flow blue, the design is imprinted onto the piece as follows: A copper plate is engraved with the design, then cobalt oxide is applied to it. Next, the copper plate is covered with a damp piece of thin paper, which is then removed and placed onto the fired white pottery, transfering the design. (Thus it's also known as transferware.) Finally, the pottery is placed in water and the paper "flows" off.

Flow blue designs tend to be blurry because of the imprecise nature of the transfer process, versus the precision of hand-painting each piece. Inexpensive factory seconds found a ready market in the United States, especially around the turn of the 20th Century.


The Saugus train station {opened June 21, 1888, the Southern Pacific Railroad having completed its spur line to Ventura in 1887 along the present-day alignment of Magic Mountain Parkway to State Route 126 through Castaic Junction, Camulos, Piru, Fillmore, Santa Paula and Saticoy — where the SP also erected depots or sidings of various size.

The large, two-story Saugus depot followed a "Common Standard" set of SP blueprints and stood at the southeast corner of present-day Drayton Street and Railroad Avenue (previously San Fernando Road). Tolfree's Saugus Eating House occupied the north side of the depot until 1905 when it moved across the street into its own building and became the Saugus Café (the name had been in use since 1899).

President Benjamin Harrison came through (without stopping) in April 1891, and Theodore Roosevelt is said to have been met at the depot by California governor and Acton gold mine owner Henry T. Gage in 1903. Twenty years later, Charlie Chaplin used the depot in "The Pilgrim," and in 1954 another U.S. president was scheduled to stop at the depot but the feds caught wind of an assassination attempt in time. Of course, this last one was Hollywood fiction; the movie was "Suddenly" and the assassin was played by Frank Sinatra. Saugus and Newhall were used extensively as the film locations.

Passenger service ended in April 1971 and the last station agent, James "Bob" Guthrie, shuttered the depot for good on Nov. 15, 1978. Facing demolition by the SP, the depot was rescued in 1980 through a fundraising effort organized by the Santa Clarita Valley Historical Society, then just 4½ years old. During the night of June 24-25, 1980, it was moved two miles south to the society's home at Heritage Junction at William S. Hart County Park in Newhall, where its film career continued (e.g., "The Grifters" with John Cusack and Angelica Huston, 1989).

Today the depot is an educational venue for visiting elementary school students and patrons of the SCV Historical Society's lectures and film showings, as well as the home to the society's offices, collections, meetings, and the community's "temporary" history museum while the Pardee House at Heritage Junction is turned into a permanent museum facility.


CN8002: Download individual images here. SCV Historical Society collection via Cynthia Neal-Harris and Evan Decker (2019).
SAUGUS CAFE

Tales of the Saugus Cafe (Reynolds)


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Envelope 1890

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Dining Room & Letterhead 1890s

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Harrison Passes By 1891

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J. Herbert Tolfree

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Charles Edward Tolfree

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In Saugus Depot 1890s

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Pottery Sherd 1891/1905

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Advertisement 1895

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J.H. Tolfree Death
1-16-1897

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1914

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Matchbook Cover 1938

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Sandwich Shop Destruction 1941

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Both Buildings 1955

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Both Bldgs ~1957 x3

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