Mystery Solved!

The Apartments of Camille Mailhebuau, 1897

The most interesting part of the antique business is researching an acquisition and actually finding its origin. Be it a hallmark, manufacturer's name, date or provenance, it's always a challenge to research. And, if you get a story behind the item, that's even better!

Lamolle House China

I recently acquired a collection of interesting dinnerware that I was told was from the estate of the owner of the old Poodle Dog Restaurant in San Francisco. Hmm...why was there china from the Lamolle House Restaurant, as well as dinnerware with the monogram, "CM" or "MC?" Didn't know, but I put it up for sale on my website, still with a curiosity.

Mystery monogrammed china

I was able to research the Lamolle House which was located in San Jose, California at the corner of San Pedro and Santa Clara Streets. Opened in 1872, by proprietors Madame Veuve Lamolle and Emile J. Lamolle, the house originally had 27 sleeping rooms.

The restaurant served gourmet French cuisine touted as “second to none in the state or the Pacific Coast" and was managed by Chef de Cuisine Alexis Gaston – formerly of Delmonico’s in New York. Okay, so that was good, but what about the monogrammed dinnerware? And why did the Poodle Dog owner have the Lamolle House china?

Last weekend I purchased a photo of a man in office filled with antiques. It was printed, "Apartments of Camille Mailhebuau 1897." Not only was this an interesting photo, but the person I purchased it from said that Mailhebuau was the former owner of the Old Poodle Dog in San Francisco. Of course, I became more curious since I had recently purchased the dinnerware that was from perhaps from the same person?

I did some research on Camille Mailhebuau and found out that he was in fact, the proprietor of the Old Poodle Dog in the years following the 1906 San Francisco earthquake. He was also a proprietor of the Lamolle House Restaurant with partner's Jules Vigouroux and Louis Coutard in 1906, as he moved to San Jose after losing his home in the earthquake. This was over thirty years after the original owners of the Lamolle House. Now it's starting to make sense...

"Faithfully I stand with ready cheer"- The Poodle Dog. Illustration from The Tale of a Poodle. Photo courtesy of the
California State Library Foundation.

"A Modern Cook, " one of the many skilled culinary artists employed by the Old Poodle Dog. Photo courtesy of the California State Library

Okay, so now I've figured out why the Lamolle House china was from the estate of Camille Mailhebuau. But, what about the "CM" "MC" dinnerware? Aren't those Camille's initials? BINGO! The dishes date to 1913, so one would only assume that this was Camille's personal dinnerware. I love when this happens! Another possibility. Restaurant china collector, Rebecca Leontiv, informed me that these pieces were possibly used at Camille's namesake restaurant, which was in operation from 1901 to 1940, located at 441 Pine Street in San Francisco, and closed by the Mailhebuau family in January 1940. In any event, this mystery is solved and the dishes were in fact owned by Camille Mailhebuau. A picture is worth a thousand words.

Dinnerware from the estate of Camille Mailhebuau

Menu from Camille's Restaurant. Photo courtesy of The Alice Statler Menu Collection

There is much more info about Camille Mailhebuau and the Old Poodle Dog Restaurant. The Old Poodle Dog had moved locations several times, changed names, etc. The California State Library recently acquired a manuscript collection from the Old Poodle Dog. It contains many materials that tell the personal story of Mailhebuau and includes photographs of him in his cluttered offices (I own one!) as well as, photographs of his family. By the way, Mailhebuau was French and there's more about his French history in the manuscript collection. You can read it all at the California State Library Foundation here.

The Poodle Dog when it was at the corner of Eddy and Mason Streets, San Francisco in 1903 Photo courtesy of the California State Library Foundation.

Special thanks to Rebecca Leontiv at Restaurant Collector's Network (RWCN) for helping me with my research!

Photos courtesy of the California State Library Foundation


design nomad said…
What a wonderful story and such impressive research!
Thanks Design Nomad! I never thought I'd figure out the mysterious dishes. I don't know how you all do these blog posts. They take hours! Thanks again for your comments. Lynn
mauritz said…
What an amazing detective job and interesting story.It makes me want to know more! This should be shared with everyone with an interest in real colorful San Francisco history and adds to the value of owning such wonderful pieces of history.I appreciate your obliviously conscientious and time consuming effort.
Anonymous said…
Lynn, fab discovery!
Sleuthing is my favorite pastime :-)
The rendering of the restaurant is beautiful. Jane
Unknown said…
that's wonderful - and so much fun when you've successfully accomplished your detective work!
Alkemie said…
WOw Lynn! You totally tracked down the story and history to this chinaware. That's amazing and so interesting. It's what makes older items so interesting - the story behind it. Thanks for sharing this fun story!
Anonymous said…
I am now the owner of 10 of the plates, thanks to my daughter. I love to research old antiques, but this time you have done the work for me. It is a great story ! I love old plates and especially old plates with a story. The plates have my initial MC so that makes it all the more interesting. I have a good conversation starter at my next dinner party.
Marilyn Clark
Juli Carter said…
Wonderful! I found your blog while trying to research why the McDonald's now at 441 Pine St. has a picture of a chef with a platter over his head ( and from the PDF you link to, it was apparently a photo of Camille that was used on their letterhead. So cool! Thanks!
Hi Juli, thanks so much for that link. More and more unfolds about Camille. I think I'll have to post about that or add it to this post!

Thanks again!


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