Monday, March 10, 2008
An armchair visit to a "new" tea room
Twice in recent weeks I've come across the unexpected news of a beloved tea room's closing. First, I learned the Magnolia and Ivy Tea Room in Sandestin, Fla., where I enjoyed a pleasant "Beach Tea" last summer, has closed. Then today I got an e-mail informing me that Vintage Tea in Alpharetta, Ga. has closed. I was just there in the fall! And a tea room I read about a few years ago, the L.S. Ayres Tea Room in Indianapolis, Ind., is no longer operating as part of the Ayres department store, but thanks to the Indiana State Museum, plenty of the tea room's memories are preserved in the wonderful book "L.S. Ayres Tea Room Recipes & Recollections."
I ordered a copy of the book, now in its sixth printing, from the museum's online gift shop (www.in.gov/ism/) and have very much enjoyed reading about the L.S. Ayres store and its legendary tea room. The department store building was constructed in 1905, according to the book, and the fifth floor tea room was so successful it had to be enlarged. It opened in its new eighth floor location in 1929. Although the store closed in 1992, the Indiana State Museum -- in what I think was a rather brilliant move -- has recreated the tea room at the museum. If I'm ever in the area, you can bet I'll want to go experience how the Indiana "ladies who lunch" crowd once dined. (Plus, Steph of the stephcupoftea blog has said she'll join me if I'm ever in the neighborhood, since she lives not too far away. That alone would be a treat!)
This book is packed with recipes and adorable vintage photos, and there are also lots of entertaining tidbits about tea room life. Even the section dividers depict tea room memorabilia, such as silver serving pieces bearing the Ayres "A" symbol. I'm always sorry to see a tea room close, but how nice to see that this historic tea room lives on. If you're a fan of either old department stores or old tea rooms, I highly recommend this book!