21 May 2012

Lost City: Asheville, NC, Edition: S&W Cafeteria

As I mentioned briefly in a previous Asheville post, Asheville's economic unluckiness was in many ways its fortune. The Depression hit the city pretty hard. So the wonderful buildings erected by the city's wealthy founders were not torn down in favor of newer, uglier ones, but remained intact.

The S&W Cafeteria is so outlandishly ornamental it looks like a branch of the Bank of Byzantium. It was built in 1929 from designs by Douglas D. Ellington. And, indeed, the grand structure actually served as a cafeteria. S&W was a Charlotte-based chain of restaurants, founded in 1920, featuring low-cost, southern food. There were branches from Georgia to D.C. "S&W" were Frank Sherrill and Fred Weber. And, yes, other locations were as opulent as this one. Even though it was a humble eating experience, like many chains of that era (Longchamps, Child's, etc.), the management wanted you to feel the experience was dignified and special. When shopping started gravitating toward the suburbs and its malls, S&W started closing down its downtown locations, like this one.

The building reopened for business as S&W Steak & Wine in 2008.


Mitch said...

Does this chain still exist in some form?

Ken Mac said...

When I was a kid S&W was a chain in NC. In Charlotte, I would go there every Saturday morning with my dad for the "Christian Business Men's Meeting." The interior was covered in Art Deco motifs with birds, sea creatures, and other flourishes. Long gone, it's a bank today.

Ron FWNC said...

Hey, what are you foing down here in my neck of the woods? Great post on a unique little city.