Greetings From….

Cardboard America

Today’s offering is a baker’s dozen of Curt Teich large-letter Greetings From….postcards. Curteich was the largest producer of color and quality linen postcards for more than 5 decades.

Teich postcards are easy to date, as there is a code on all codes that tells you when it was published. There is a handy dating guide available on pdf.

The Curt Teich archives are located at the Newberry in Chicago, Illinois and contains hundreds of thousands of the company postcards, letters and ephemera.

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Greetings from Portland, Oregon

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Greetings from South Bend, Indiana

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Greetings from Lake Tahoe

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Greetings from Santa Claus, Indiana

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Greetings from Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin

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Greetings from St. Petersburg, Florida

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Greetings from Chicago, Illinois

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Greetings from Santa Cruz, California

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Greetings from Nevada

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Greetings from Lincoln, Nebraska

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Greetings from Hannibal, Missouri

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Greetings from Egypt, Illinois

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Greetings from Cincinnati, Ohio

Entering Missouri/Entering Arkansas

Cardboard America

These two undated, unmarked real photo postcards of the border between Arkansas and Missouri. After a little sleuthing, I determined that this is Highway 61, just east of Blytheville, Arkansas.

If I knew enough about cars then I could probably put a date on these postcards.

Entering Missouri

Entering Missouri

Entering Arkansas

Entering Arkansas

There is nothing left on the Missouri side. The Texaco and over service station are no more.

There is one solitary building on the Arkansas side. It’s hard to see in the postcard as it’s  semi-obscured by the turn arrow and 25mph sign (with a Budweiser sign) on top still stand but nearly everything else is long gone.

Diamonds Restaurant and Inn – Villa Ridge, Missouri

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The Banana Stand opened in Villa Ridge, Missouri about 35 miles west of St. Louis in 1923. The small roadside stand owned and operated by Spencer and Ursula Groff was an big hit.  Every year the place expanded. In the 1930s the now restaurant was renamed The Diamonds. In 1947, The Diamonds were serve a record 1,480,000 customers. Everything was looking great. Luck would change for The Diamonds on February 28, 1948. A fire decimated the restaurant, gutting it beyond repair. But that would not be the end of the story. The Diamonds would reopen bigger and better than ever.

The St. Louis Star and Times – July 1, 1949

 

Former Banana Stand busboy Louis Eckelkamp was in charge of the restaurant at the time of fire and he vowed to make a new, bigger restaurant with everything needed for the traveling tourist.

The new Diamonds Restaurant opened on July 10, 1949 at its new location on U.S. Highway 50 and Route 66. The new fireproof building cost around $350,000 to erect. It contained a full basement, first floor seating for nearly 400 people, a coffee shop, cafeteria, curio shop, drive-in cafe, bus ticket office, travel bureau, popcorn stand and filling station. It was truly one-stop shop.

Upon opening, it was approximated that 75 buses a day stopped at The Diamonds, bringing the restaurant nearly 5,500 customers a day. The locals would also frequent the restaurant, knowing that that a pleasant atmosphere and good food could be found there.

The restaurant thrived for over 20 years at that location, but in 1971 The Diamonds had dreams of expanding. An even newer restaurant and motel would be built just slightly down the road on the more-traveled Interstate 44 and Grey Summit Interchange just off of Route 66.

The old building would become the Tri-Country Truck Stop. The restaurant building/truck stop would close in 2006. The building still stands and is said to be haunted. Supposedly, there is an apparition at the old restaurant and another presence nicknamed George. George has been “known” to get a little ghost-handsy with women. The old site is alleged to open sometime this year.

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The motel featured 162 units and a pool. The new location offered more gas services and advertised itself as the closest fuel/lodging location to Six Flags. The new location, however would suffer. The fuel crisis of 1973, along with a crippling recession slowed traffic to a crawl. The Diamonds had been successful for so long that they were able to weather it, but they would never be the same.

Sometime in the mid 1980s, business had slowed to such a crawl that the decision was made to close the place down. The third Diamonds would sit idle for a bit and ultimately be torn down. The motel is still standing and is now the Travelodge Six Flags/Grey Summit.

Bob Cummings Motor Hotel – Joplin, Missouri

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Bob Cummings was a well-known actor of both television and movies. He was born in Joplin, Missouri on June 9, 1910.

I will let IMDB give a brief biography for me, as this isn’t really about Bob’s career:

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Postcard courtesy of Joplin Public Library

Effective light comedian of ’30s and ’40s films and ’50s and ’60s TV series, Robert Cummings was renowned for his eternally youthful looks (which he attributed to a strict vitamin and health-food diet). He was educated at Carnegie Tech and the American Academy of Dramatic Arts. Deciding that Broadway producers would be more interested in an upper-crust Englishman than a kid from Joplin, Missouri, Cummings passed himself off as Blade Stanhope Conway, British actor. The ploy was successful. Cummings decided that if it worked on Broadway, it would work in Hollywood, so he journeyed west and assumed the identity of a rich Texan named Bruce Hutchens. The plan worked once more, and he began securing small parts in films. He soon reverted to his real name and became a popular leading man in light comedies, usually playing well-meaning, pleasant but somewhat bumbling young men. He achieved much more success, however, in his own television series in the ’50s, The Bob Cummings Show (1955) and My Living Doll (1964).

Neosho News, April 29, 1962

The Bob Cummings Motor Hotel opened on April 28, 1962 just down the street from another hotel owned by a celebrity, the Mickey Mantle-owned Holiday Inn (I will get to that story in the future).

Located at Interstate 44 connection to the Oklahoma Turnpike on Highways 71-166 & Route 66, The Bob Cummings contained a large swimming, direct dial phones, a 24-hour restaurant, 2 cocktail lounges and convention facilities for 500 people.

The motel itself was painted with squares of red, blue, yellow and black and surrounded the large swimming in the back of the complex.

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The motor hotel started with a bang. Three people were arrested after a fight broke out as the result of a poker game gone wrong. A couple was charge for illicit cohabitation and gambling and another man for gambling.

Things went smoother for the Bob Cummings for a little while. There were coin shows, conventions of all kinds – I found articles about a telephone workers convention, press conventions, civic conventions, proms, fashion shows and a three-day, very competitive Bridge competition.  It was gaining the reputation as  the place to see and be seen in Joplin.

The Neosho Daily News, November 25, 1964

The brawl was a bit of an omen of things to come, as the Bob Cummings Motor Hotel was seemingly cursed to be a failure.

Just four months after the opening the motels parent company, Van Pelt Motor Hotels, has their liquor license suspended for 10 days due to overselling packaged liquor from their store.

On July 26th, 1964 a strong windstorm came through Joplin. The wind caused loose gravel from the motel to blow, causing damage to cars and the lobby flooded.

Behind the scenes, things were just as dicey. In November of 1964, a Newton County Magistrate Judge issued an order of execution for recovery of leased premises to Irving Dexter and Armin Miller, of Chicago, to take over the motor lodge due to the bankruptcy of Van Pelt Motor Hotels, Inc and the breaking of their lease.

I cannot find any details on what happened to the place after that. I don’t think it lasted much longer and if it did it was drastically changed. The location is not listed in the 1967 Master Hosts motels guide so either it was gone or it ceased to be a member of the Master Hosts Motor Hotel chain.

Bob Cummings died in 1990 in California at the age of 80.

The building lasted until 2012 having ended it’s life as a place called Riviera Roadside Motel. There is a Sonic on the site now and there is no trace of the taste of Hollywood that Joplin enjoyed for a brief period in the 1960s.

 

Stouffer’s Top of the…Restaurants

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The Palm Beach Post – October 9, 1960

You may Stouffer’s as one of the biggest names in frozen foods but what you may not know is that the Stouffer’s name was once ties to inns, eateries, and a series of restaurants that tower of some major cities and providesd food and drink with a view.

Stouffer’s was founded in 1922, when Abraham and Mahala Stouffer opened a dairy stand in downtown Cleveland’s Arcade Building. The Stouffers would add fresh-brewed coffee and Mrs. Stouffer’s homemade Dutch apple pies to the menu. Business really started to boom when the Stouffer’s son Vernon returned with a finance degree from Penn in 1923. The family established its first real restaurant called Stouffer Lunch in 1924. Located on East 9th Street and Euclid Avenue the restaurant was opened with an investment of just $15,000.

The restaurant’s menu featured a few sandwiches priced from 20 to 25 cents. Stouffer’s would expand to Detroit and then to Pittsburgh. Shortly after that another son named Gordon joined the burgeoning business. It was Gordon who recommended that the waitresses, known as “Stouffer Girls,” should all wear a standard outfit dictated by Stouffer’s.

The restaurant was not slowed down by the Depression. In  1935, the chain opened its sixth location, and in 1937, it launched its first restaurant in New York City. World War II would slow the company’s expansion but in 1946, Stouffer’s opened its first suburban restaurant in Cleveland’s Shaker Square neighborhood.

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Inside of a matchbook from 1975

The food became so popular that people would ask for it to go or frozen so they could enjoy the food at home. The company soon realized the potential of what they could do with frozen food, and began to sell the items in a separate business called the 227 Club.

Stouffer’s volume of frozen food business grew so quickly that, in 1954, the company built a processing plant in downtown Cleveland. That year, the company was officially named Stouffer Foods Corporation.

The restaurant group launched its “Top of…” restaurants in the 1956 with Stouffer’s Top of the Rock located in the newly built Prudential Building on Michigan Avenue in Chicago. Not long after that the Top of the Six’s opened in New York.

In 1960, Stouffer made its first venture into the hotel business with the purchase of Fort Lauderdale, Florida’s Anacapri Inn. I will definitely be doing a write-up of the Anacapri at some point soon.

The purchase gave the company three divisions: Stouffer Hotel Co., Stouffer Foods Corp., and Stouffer Restaurant Co.

By 1965, there were seven Top of The…restaurants in the Stouffer’s franchise. In May of that year, Stouffer’s announced a five-year, $17 million expansion plan to increase its number of ground restaurants and to add more “Top of The…” restaurants to their growing empire.

Nestlé acquired Stouffer’s three divisions in 1973. The merger did not hamper growth. Several new hotels with Top of The…built in to the towers were opened in the late 1970s.

Stouffer’s Hotel group was sold to the Renaissance/Ramada chains in 1993 for approximately $1.5 billion. The reorganization left Stouffer Corp. with frozen foods as its sole business where it still thrives under the Nestle banner.

By the time it was all said and done there were 16 Top of The…restaurants built over a 23 year span. Some enjoyed lasted success, others faded fairly quickly. I have done my best to find what I could about every one of these places. I placed in them in chronological order by opening date. Some of the places’ dates are sketchy at best but I think I have them in order.

Let’s start at the beginning…

Top of the Rock – Chicago, Illinois

Opened: 1956
Closed: January, 1976
Location: 41st Floor, Prudential Building, 130 E. Randolph St.

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Chicago Tribune – September 24, 1961

The Top of the Rock was located at the top of the Prudential Building on Michigan Avenue. Upon its opening in 1956, the restaurant at that top of Chicago’s first skyscraper in 21 years, offered unparalleled views of downtown Chicago and Lake Michigan. On a clear day you could see four states and seemingly all of Chicago.

Top of the Rock was THE place to go on a date, get a cocktail and take in a great view. Top of the Rock sat 180 guests in an early-American/Continental decor.

That only lasted for about a decade. In 1966, the Prudential Building was no longer the tallest building in Chicago. By the early 1970s the observation deck, that once was host to over 750,000 people a year, was down to fewer than one-third of that total.

The restaurants, now struggling to gain visitors seemed dated and The Loop area was no longer a place for tourists.  The Loop had turned in to a downtown that was for business people only and was virtually abandoned when the evening rolled around.

In January 1976 the Top of the Rock closed.

A February 8, 1976 article “‘Top of Rock’ winks out – omen for Loop?” by Paul Gapp in The Chicago Tribune laments the demise of the restaurant and the Loop:

The restaurant did not merely lose a height battle. It lost out on changing times and forces that have killed off a dozen other landmark Loop restaurants [not to mention theaters, nightclubs, book stores, specialty shops, and other amenities razed in the name of progress.”]

Every time another old-line attraction closes its doors, we seem to move closer to the day when there will be nothing – absolutely nothing – to do in the Loop after 6 pm.

After years of careful planning, the Loop did recover. The Prudential Building still stands right across the street from a newer tourist destination, Millennium Park.

No other restaurant has occupied the 41st floor space where Top of The Rock once offered a unique view of a changing city.

Top of the Six’s – New York, New York

Opened: 1958
Closed: September 1996
Location: Penthouse Floor666 Fifth Avenue

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Top of the Six’s was located on the penthouse floor of 666 Fifth Avenue, between 52nd/53rd Streets. 666 Fifth Avenue, also know as the Tishman Building was built in 1957. It building was known for its aluminium exterior paneling and for the glowing 666 on the side.

Also known as the Tishman building, the 41-story building was located near Rockefeller Center. It was a prime location for the wealthy and famous

The Top of the Six’s was known for it’s ambiance and for being the place to see and be seen. The drinks were stiff but the food was nothing special.

The September 18, 1996 New York Times article No More Tables for Two at the Top of the Sixes by David Stout states:

‘Nobody ever went there for the food.”

In July 1973, about 15 years after it opened, the restaurant announced that it was about to serve its 10 millionth meal. Ominously, a review that month found the cuisine anything but haute.

”My ‘beef stroganoff’ was a Swiss steak on noodles reminiscent of a hundred airline meals,” the restaurant reviewer declared, in one of his kinder passages.

Nine years later, a reviewer called Top of the Sixes ”the sort of place you visit in order to say you’ve been there, once.”

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Courtesy of New York Public Library

The end came in September 1996. Stouffer’s sold the restaurant to Select Restaurants of Cleveland in 1992 and they ultimately decided to not to renew their lease.

Top of the Six’s became another relic of a bygone New York era.

To the left and below, you can see a 1964 menu from the Top of the Six’s.

The Dinner Provencal are a steep $5.45 which is the equivalent of $42.31 in 2016 dollars.

 

 

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1964 menu courtesy of New York Public Library

Top of the Marine – Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Opened: 1961
Closed: December 28, 2001 (then known as Top of the Plaza)
Location: 22nd floor of Marine Plaza (later known as Bank One Plaza Building), 111 E. Wisconsin

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Postcard courtesy of William Bird

The building, also designed by Harrison and Abramovitz Architects, now known as Chase Tower was originally christened Marine Plaza when it was built for the Marine National Exchange Bank at 111 E. Wisconsin. The building opened in 1961 and I am guessing the restaurant opened at the same time or shortly there after.

Located on the 22nd floor, The Top of the Marine was designed with a luxury paddle-wheel theme. The entire decor was based on being on a turn of the 20th century cruise ship traveling over the Great Lakes. The restaurant offered a spectacular view of downtown Milwaukee from what was then the second tallest building in Milwaukee.

Over the years the Marine National Exchange Bank went through numerous mergers and name changes. Stouffer’s left around 1983 or 1984 but the restaurant re-named the Top of the Plaza remained until the very end of December 2001.

Top of the Mart – Atlanta, Georgia

Opened: Late 1961
Closed: ?
Location: 22nd Floor, Atlanta Merchandise Mart, 240 Peachtree St., NW

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240 Peachtree St., N.W. Atlanta 3, Ga.
This enchanting, love Mediterranean Garden Court is a delightful introduction to the exciting “Top of the Mart” restaurant-lounge on the 22nd floor of Atlanta’s new Merchandise Mart. Luncheon, dinner and late dining…famous Stouffer food and your favorite beverages are served. Party and banquet facilities are available.

The Atlanta Merchandise Mart, the first building constructed in Peachtree Center, was at the time of  its construction the largest building in Atlanta.

Top of the Mart opened on the 22nd floor of the Merchandise Mart shortly after the  opening of the building. Featuring a Mediterranean Garden and a brick-lined courtyard and a small, bubbling fountains, Top of the Mart was Atlanta’s hotspot for people of all races. The restaurant opened as a fully-integrated place in downtown Atlanta during the height of the fight against segregation. Stouffer’s also operated an integrated restaurant and lounge on the Peachtree Street level.

Top of the Mart was also a great place to get a drink due to Atlanta was a wet city in dry Georgia. A child, as long as there were accompanied by an adult could drink.

Information about the closing of the Top of the Mart has been hard to track down. Let me know if you have any information.

Top of the Flame – Detroit, Michigan

Opened: April 4, 1963
Closed: April 30, 1978
Location: 26th Floor, Michigan Consolidated Gas Building, 1 Woodward Ave.

Detroit Free Press – March 29, 1963

The Michigan Consolidated Gas Building with a light on top that resembled a flame, was built in 1962 and was designed for the gas industry. There were gas jets with blue flames around the reflecting pool and the lobby ceiling a blue bulb that resembled a glass flame in the corners.

The Top of the Flame opened shortly after the building, on the 26th floor seated 350 in five different dining rooms.The restaurant’s decor was inspired by a showplace home in Bangkok, Thailand and included a Pagoda Bar.

Business boomed from the outset. The Top of the Flame was the only restaurant in town that had an accessible view of the Detroit waterfront and river. That lasted for a little more than decade until the Renaissance Plaza Hotel opened in 1976. The Plaza offered a newer environment and a higher, better view of the city.

Detroit, 1976, was in turmoil. In August, something of a mini-riot occurred in Cobo Hall, right near the Gas Building. Police arrested 47 people following an attack during a concert by the Average White Band and Kool and the Gang. The violence during event was gruesome and people understandably avoided that area of downtown.

The Top of the Flame, already appearing outdated, was doomed by these events. It was announced in December of 1977 that The Top of the Flame would not be renewing its lease when it came due at the end of April, 1978.

Top of the Rockies – Denver, Colorado

Opened: 1964
Closed: 1993?
Location: 30th Floor, Security Life Building

Top of the Rockies Denver Colorado

CardCow.com

Step from the glass-encased Sky Lift into a quaint French Alpine village… enjoy a breathtaking view of the magnificent Rockies from any dining and cocktail area… the finest American food as well as French and Swiss specialties.

Top of the Rockies was located 30 floors up at 16th & Glenarm in the Security Life Building in downtown Denver. The Security Life Building opened in 1964. It featured a glass-enclosed skylift elevator that offered a view all the way up. Advertising at the time used the phrase “See Denver one story at a time.”

The Top of the Rockies was decorated in a French Alpine village motif with flowers and fountains in a brick courtyard. The menu was designed with that motif in mind, specializing in French and Swiss style food.

There was a lounge for dancing and the music of FOXFIRE, the house band for several years in the 1970s.

I don’t know when the Top of the Rockies closed. I think it might have been around 1993 or 1994 but I am not sure. The building went through numerous name changed before finally being converted into apartments in 2005.

Top of the Town – Cleveland, Ohio

Opened: 1964
Closed: January, 1995
Location: 38th FloorErieview Plaza, 100 Erie View Tower

Developers John Galbreath and Peter Ruffin broke ground on a new skyscraper designed by the architecture firm of Harrison and Abramovitz called Erieview Tower in early 1963. As part of grand urban renewal plan for downtown Cleveland, Erieview Tower in the new Erieview Plaza (designed by I.M. Pei) was meant to be the hub of newly revitalized downtown Cleveland.

According to Wikipedia:

The tower, with its underground 450 car parking garage, was completed in 1964 and although the full renewal plan was not fully implemented, significant progress was made over the course of the following twenty-five years. Much of the area was cleared for redevelopment and a number of other buildings were constructed. A large amount of land was relegated to surface parking and, for a time into the late 1970s, the area became a somewhat cold and foreboding place to be with the East 9th Street corridor a limit to downtown’s growth.

Top of the Town was known for its fun, festive atmosphere and for their sauerkraut balls which is exactly what you’d think it is: deep-fried sauerkraut in ball-form.

In the 1970s, the restaurant was known for its live entertainment by local entertainers such as pianist Tommy Clair, musician Gary Lyman and Jack Reynolds from radio station WHK 1420 who would conduct live broadcasts from the Top of the Town Monday thru Friday from 7 to midnight; and radio station WJW would also broadcast radio shows live from Top of the Town.

The restaurant closed down in 1995 but the memories live on. There is a Top of The Town Facebook group where former employees and patrons share their great stories and pictures.

*all photos from the Facebook group*

Top of the Hub – Boston, Massachusetts

Opened: Spring 1965
Status: STILL OPEN
Location: 52nd Floor of the Prudential Tower, 800 Boylston Street

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Construction began on the Prudential Tower in 1960. When it was completed in 1964, it was the tallest building in the world outside of New York.

Located on the 52nd floor, The Top of Hub, opened on April 19, 1965 and offered a dazzling view of the entire Boston metropolitan area. On clear days you could see beyond Boston Harbor into the Massachusetts Bay.

The Top of the Hub is still open. I am having a very difficult time finding when Stouffer’s stopped running the restaurant. The current website does not mention its past history. I will continue to dig and update this post of I can figure it out. As always, feel free to leave me a message or e-mail me if you have any information or if/when I have any facts wrong about this or any of these places.

Top of the Center – Columbus, Ohio

Opened: 1965?
Closed: 1997?
Location: 31st Floor, City National Building, 100 East Broad St.

This entry should come with the disclaimer that this one has been a doozy. If I am wrong please let me know as I would like to know but information is very scarce about this particular location and every bit I do find seems to contradict the other. I think the basis for the confusion is that there were three Stouffer’s location in Columbus including One Nation, which was atop the Nationwide Building at around the same time.

The Top of the Center was located on the 31st floor of City National Building (now known as the PNC Bank Building

I found an anonymous comment from an old forum about lost Columbus restaurants:

The classy English inn motif, the excellent menu, and who could forget the “cherries flambe” prepared (lit on fire)at your table!? And the view from the Top of the Center (top floor of what was then the City National bldg, now Bank One) was breath-taking, especially at night during the holidays when you all the lights were up, including the lights on the Lazarus bldg, and the snow covered everything below. At the time, the City National bldg was the second tallest in the city!

Stouffer’s opened One Nation (atop the Nationwide Plaza One Bldg.) in 73. Not sure how much longer the Top survived after that. I have the fondest childhood memories of those years. Sure wish the Top was still around!

Top of the Riverfront – St. Louis, Missouri

Opened: April 5, 1969
Closed: January, 2014
Location: 30th Floor, Stouffer’s Riverfront Inn, 200 South Fourth St.

St. Louis Post-Dispatch – January 5, 1969

The barrel-shaped, modern style hotel constructed of concrete and glass was designed in 1964 by New York architect William B. Tabler and completed in 1969.

The construction of the 400-room Riverfront Inn coincided with the building of the Gateway Arch, the second Busch Stadium and the CBS as a part of a serious urban renewal plan for St. Louis is the late 1960s.

The Top of the Riverfront was the only revolving restaurant in the Stouffer’s family and it operated atop the hotel (known by many names over the years) from its highly celebrated opening to its quiet closing in 2014.

It would take the restaurant almost 80 minutes  to complete a full 360 degree revolution. According to National Register of Historic Places Registration documents only five other similar structures had been built previously nationwide. The building complex was recently listed on the National Register of Historic Places,  Before its National Register listing, the idea of demolition had been brought forth.

There have been rumblings of renovating the hotel and opening the revolving restaurant but there is no time frame for completion

Top of the Triangle – Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Opened: August 17, 1971
Closed: September 29, 2001
Location: 62nd Floor, U.S. Steel Building, 600 Grant Street

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette – February 12, 1974

The U.S. Steel building

The tallest

The restaurant had a preview opening on August 13, 1971. Bill Mazeroski of the Pittsburgh Pirates cut the ribbon and escorted the first guest Mrs. Donald M. Campsey of Claysville, Pennsylvania into the restaurant. It officially opened for business four days later.

Top of the Triangle featured a pair of dining rooms that sat a total of 230 people. The cocktail lounge had accommodations for 75 and nightly entertainment. There was also a room called the Downtown Club that shared the 62nd floor with the U.S. Steel executive dining rooms.

Top of the Triangle was fairly successful. For nearly 30 years it provided a view of the Golden Triangle in Pittsburgh. Times had changed and the restaurant had not aged. The new owners of the U.S. Steel building called for the restaurant to be demolished in 2001.

Bonus Article:

Monday, September 17, 2001 By Woodene Merriman, Post-Gazette Dining Critic

For 30 years, the Top of the Triangle has been a premier spot to celebrate a birthday, entertain a potential customer or pop the question to your true love. The Janosko and Tenenini families, in fact, have celebrated other family birthdays there.

For the young (or young at heart) it was exciting to be whizzed up to the 62nd floor on the super-fast elevator. Then, if you were lucky, you got a seat by the windows where you could look out over most all of Pittsburgh. (This is one place, it is said, where you look down on Mount Washington.)

If you were extremely lucky, you got table No. 54, which has the best view of all — three rivers, the stadiums and North Shore, Downtown, Point State Park, Mount Washington.

It’s a big, open restaurant, light and bright, seating 320 people, and the tables are in tiers, so they all have good views. From the beginning, it was known as a sophisticated restaurant, expensive as well as expansive, and the place to go for special occasions. When a young man suddenly got down on his knees to propose between courses, other diners applauded. Diamond engagement rings turned up in glasses of champagne and in fancy desserts. At least once a small plane flew by the windows, trailing a sign, “Will you marry me?”

Also, in 1985 it was estimated that dinner for two would cost $75. Robert Bianco, then the dining critic for The Pittsburgh Press and now a television critic with USA Today, complained that the restaurant was getting ” top-level prices for ground-level food.”

The restaurant has had other ups and downs over the years, and not just from the elevator (where rambunctious young boys were known to jump while the elevator moved for an extra thrill.) In 1987 a fire on a lower floor in the building sent diners scurrying up to the rooftop heliport until the danger was over.

Stouffer’s operated the restaurant when it opened in July 1971, then Nestles and finally Select Restaurants of Cleveland, which also owns Roxy Cafe in South Hills Village and the Cheese Cellar in the Freight House Shops, Station Square. Select was not able to renew the lease. It has been rumored that offices will go into this space or another restaurant. Nothing has been confirmed.

For many years, Top of the Triangle’s popular dessert was Sky High Pie, described on the menu as “lofty layers of ice cream surmounted with a liqueur-flavored meringue, $2.25.” Tableside cooking and old-time favorites like shrimp cocktails, shrimp de jonghe and French onion soup were menu regulars.

Top of the Tower – Louisville, Kentucky

Opened: February 5, 1975
Closed: January, 1984
Location: 38th Floor, First National Bank Tower, 101 South Fifth Street

The Courier-Journal – January 31, 1975

Top of the Tower, the 12th Stouffer’s Top of The… restaurant for the franchise, opened on the 38th floor of the First National Bank in downtown Louisville on February 5, 1975

At the time it opened, the First National Bank Tower was the tallest building in Kentucky, Indiana or Tennessee.

The restaurant sat 154 guests in the main dining room, another 24 in a private function room and 66 in its cocktail lounge.

Top of the Tower, like the others built in the mid-late 1970s, had a short shelf life. Changing tastes, Stouffer’s restructuring and turmoil at the First National Bank lead to the closing of the restaurant in early 1984.

Top of Centre Square – Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Opened: February 13, 1975
Closed: June 11, 1993
Location: 41st Floor, First Pennsylvania Tower at 15th and Market Sts.

The Philadelphia Inquirer – February 11, 1975

Top of Centre Square opened in to a ton of fanfare and buzz around Philadelphia. The restaurant, at the top of the fairly new First Pennsylvania Bank Building at 1500 Market Street never seemed like it would open. Construction delays and general set-up would delay the restaurant for a while.

Starting in the mid-1960s, developer Jack Wolgin began development of a high-rise complex in the West Market area of Philadelphia. There were multiple buildings on the plot of land that Wolgin wanted. He sought help from the city. He got it. In 1969, the city condemned all of the buildings and the entire area was leveled. That would not, however be the last problem that would need to be solved.

The complex, originally meant to be two steel towers ran way over budget and had to be redesigned just months before the project was set to begin. Concrete was used instead of steel to get the budget down some. The project was completed in 1973 at a cost of $80 million with First Pennsylvania Bank and its anchor tenant.

Construction remained even after the building was open. The top floor that would house the newest Stouffer’s venture was not finished for a few months.

After the building has been opened for a year, Top of the Centre opened on the 41st floor on February 11, 1975 after all of the construction had been fully finished

The favorite spot in Top of Centre Square was the William Penn Room where diners could see City Hall and east towards the Delaware River.

The near constant critique of the Top of The…restaurants was that the views were outstanding but the food was not. Top of Centre Square was exactly the same way.

I don’t usually quote Wikipedia but this says what I want to say better than I could:

Top of Centre Square is best known for Claes Oldenburg’s sculpture, Clothespin, in the plaza in front of the building. A fan of contemporary art, developer Jack Wolgin commissioned three works under Philadelphia’s percent for art program: Clothespin, Jean Dubuffet’s Milord la Chamarre, and a series of banners by Alexander Calder. The works helped Philadelphia gain a reputation for promoting public art.

In 1993, the Stouffer’s name was dropped from the Top of the Mart and just a few months later it closed for good.

Top of the Plaza – Houston, Texas

Opened: August 1975
Closed: STILL OPEN
Location: 20th Floor of the Stouffer’s Greenway Plaza Hotel, Six Greenway Plaza

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Texas Monthly – April 1984

The Greenway Plaza Hotel opened in August, 1975. Located at the newly built Greenway Plaza, the hotel and restaurant are still open to this day as Renaissance Hotel.

The Top of the Plaza in this hotel was barely mentioned and obviously not one of the top features designed to lure travelers.

The hotel is connected to an underground shopping and fast-food dining mall.

The hotel remained a Stouffer’s until at least the early 1990s. Little tidbits of semi-interesting NBA and pop culture trivia appear when you research the Greenway Plaza.

The first item appeared in the Los Angeles Times on June 12, 1986:

Officials of the Stouffer Greenway Plaza Hotel are trying to collect about $50,000 from Houston Rockets guard Lewis Lloyd for a five-month stay, a hotel spokesman said.

Lloyd, 27, leased three rooms at the hotel from September through January. The rooms were reportedly occupied by Lloyd, his brother and a friend.

Rex Graham, an accountant who has worked on Lloyd’s financial records, said the tab included charges by other people without Lloyd’s knowledge. “He was taken advantage of,” Graham said.

Lloyd, a three-year starter averaging 16.9 points a game in the regular season, signed a three-year, non-guaranteed contract with the Rockets on Sept. 27, 1985 that is worth $675,000.

Lewis Lloyd would be banned by the NBA later that year for cocaine abuse.

The second item is minor but kind of a fun bit of useless trivia. In 1990, Madonna hosted a big party after kicking off her “Blonde Ambition” tour at the Summit Arena (now Lakewood Church) next door. The party was filmed for Madonna’s Truth or Dare documentary.

The hotel and restaurant are still standing and are now known as the Doubletree Greenway Plaza.

Top of the Plaza – Dayton, Ohio

Opened: Early 1976
Closed: STILL OPEN
Location: Fifth and Jefferson

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Found on eBay

The newest addition to the rising Dayton skyline. Located between the Dayton Convention Center (Exhibition Hall) and the Transportation Center, connected to both by skywalks on the second level public floor. Over three hundred spacious guest rooms, luxurious Hospitality Suites, heated swimming pool, gift shop, newsstand and modern meeting facilities. Experience magnificent rooftop dining at Top of the Plaza, or enjoy hearty drinks and oversized sandwiches in the Grogshop.

The Dayton Plaza Hotel was built in 1976 at the corner of Fifth and Jefferson in downtown Dayton, Ohio.

There is not much information to be found about the place. It remained a Stouffer’s property throughout the 1980s. It still stands today but it is now known as the Crowne Plaza Dayton.

The restaurant, now longer a Stouffer’s but still called Top of the Plaza, is still serving food a view of Dayton from their rooftop floor.

Top of the Crown – Cincinnati, Ohio

Opened:  May 9, 1978
Closed: January 1, 1984
Location: 32nd Floor of the Stouffer’s Cincinnati Tower, 141 W. 6th Street

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Stouffer’s Cincinnati Towers

The last Top of the….restaurant to open and the shortest-lived, The Top of the Crown opened to much fanfare on May 9, 1978.

The Cincinnati Enquirer – May 6, 1978

Offering a “Victorian atmosphere featuring rich colors of rust and gold,” the dining area on the 31st floor sat 348 people and offered a great view of the

One of only three Top of the…restaurants in a Stouffer’s owned hotel property, The Top of the Crown was doomed from the beginning. Stouffer’s was going through numerous changes and restructurings in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

The Akron Beacon Journal, July 5, 1983

In June of 1983 it was announced that as of the beginning of the next year, eleven Stouffer hotels, including the Cincinnati Towers were to be renamed Clarion Hotels. As far as I can tell, The Top of the Crown ceased to exist after that. It certainly didn’t last through 1985, as the trademark for the name expired.

Top of the Seasons – Des Moines, Iowa

Opened: January 29, 1979
Closed: 1983ish
Location: Stouffer’s Five Seasons Hotel, 350 First Avenue

Stouffer's Five Season Hotel Cedar Rapids Iowa

Cardcow.com

This may have been the last Top of the…restaurant to be built but I am not sure. Every time I think I have them all, I seem to find another. I have found these last three places after searching for the others. There very well could be one or two more.

The Stouffer’s Five Season hotel opened on January 29, 1979. There were 284 rooms in the tower located in the heart of Des Moines.

Featuring a ballroom that could hold up to 1600 people, The Glass Parrot cocktail lounge with top flight entertainment, The Top of the Seasons was, very briefly, the hotspot in Des Moines.

However, like the previous few restaurants, Stouffer’s restaurants and hotels at this time were in major turmoil and tastes had changed so dramatically that The Five Seasons Hotel would remain a Stouffer’s franchise for about a decade and the restaurant would only last until around 1983 or 1984. I haven’t found the date just yet.

The Des Moines Register – February 28, 1979

The hotel becoming the Crowne Plaza Hotel by the time of the June 2008 flood. The flood permanently damaged the signature escalators that were a popular feature of the hotel/convention/arena complex.

Championship Wrestling from St. Louis – September 24, 1948

Cardboard America
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Postcard advertising the September 24, 1948 card

This is an advertising postcard for Championship Wrestling from St. Louis on Friday, September 24, 1948.

This was a really interesting find for me. Most people don’t know that I am a fan of this history of professional wrestling. In my years of collecting I had never come across anything like this.

There is nothing particularly interesting about the card that took place on September 24, 1948 but that year was one of the most pivotal years in the history of professional wrestling and for St. Louis entertainment.

The main event  of this card featured a One Fall to a Finish between Enrique Torres (the Mexican Mat Sensation and Conqueror of Wild Bill Longson) and the legendary N.W.A. (National Wrestling Association – not THAT NWA) champion Lou Thesz.

Lou Thesz won the National Wrestling Association title from Wild Bill Longson a few months before this on July 10, 1948.

Orville Brown was the other NWA champion. It was all very territorial and confusing.

Before the National Wrestling Alliance was founded in 1948, there were many regional professional wrestling promotions across North America (each promoting its own “World” champion). None of them, however, had backing or recognition outside of their own respective geographic base-areas.

The concept of the NWA was to consolidate the championships of these regional companies into one true world championship of pro wrestling, whose holder would be recognized worldwide.

In 1948, Paul “Pinkie” George, a promoter from the Midwest, founded the original version of the National Wrestling Alliance with the backing of five other promoters (Al Haft, Tony Strecher, Harry Light, Orville Brown, and Sam Muchnick). This newly formed NWA Board of Directors wanted Brown to be the first-ever NWA World champion.

However, on November 1, 1949, Orville Brown suffered a career-ending automobile accident and 26 days later Lou Thesz was awarded the title.
The Mississippi Valley Sport Club had a

St. Louis Star and Times, September 24, 1948

Here’s a little history of the Mississippi Valley Sports Club. Special thanks to the Legacy of Wrestling website:

The Mississippi Valley Sports Club was formed after the purchase of Tom Packs’ wrestling interests in St. Louis in June 1948.  At that point, wrestler Lou Thesz owned 55% of the new promotion, Bill Longson owned 35%, Toronto promoter Frank Tunney owned 5% and Montreal promoter Eddie Quinn owned 5%.

Martin Thesz became the “front” for the organization in the St. Louis market and the
promoter of record for all shows.  At that point, Lou Thesz was in the midst of a heated war in St. Louis against rival Sam Muchnick.  Muchnick, in July 1948, helped form the National Wrestling Alliance, a cooperative union of bookers looking to better assist each other in rivalries such as the one he was engaged in.  With assistance coming in from Al Haft in Ohio and Tony Stecher in Minnesota, Muchnick was looking to get an upper hand on his enemy.
This wasn’t a staged “war” as seen so many times in pro wrestling, but a serious business conflict that would see the winner capitalize on the huge St. Louis wrestling market.  There was a great deal of money on the line, and neither Muchnick nor Thesz wanted to give up.

However, all things must come to an end one way or another. Muchnick and Thesz met in 1949 and figured out a way to meld their interests.  The St. Louis conflict officially ended in August 1949 with the two men becoming even partners.  However, another source stated that Muchnick held two percentage points more than Thesz.

To maintain the illusion of competition in St. Louis and to keep the integrity of the two individual promotions, both the Mississippi Valley Sports Club (Arcade Building) and Sam Muchnick Wrestling Attractions (Claridge Hotel) offices remained opened.  In front of the public and other state officials, there was never a peace agreement.

Simply, Muchnick and Thesz didn’t want people to know that there was now a monopoly over the booking and promotions of pro wrestling in the city.

Back to this specific card for that night.

The results, as reported by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch on September 25, 1948:

Note: The scan is a little blurry so I decided to type out the results as well.

FIRST MATCH – Joe Dusek pinned Ray Gunkle with a body flop in 16:44
AUSTRALIAN TEAM MATCH – Chris and Babe Zaharias beat Joe Millich & Mickey Gold in two straight falls, Gold was disqualified in 13:48 and Millich was pinned by Chris Zaharias in 2:54 of second round
SEMI-FINAL – Al Lovelock pinned Killer Karl David with a body slam in 15:66 (has to be either 15:06 or 16:06)
MAIN EVENT – Lou Thesz defeated Enrique Torres when the bout was stopped at 33:41 after Torres suffered a cut over his eye.

Abra K Dabra: Pizza Magic

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CHAIN - Abra K Dabra (1)

Matchbook cover for Abra K Dabra

Every so often I come across something in my collection that I hadn’t paid much attention to in the past but when I rediscover it I become fascinated and wanted to know more about it.

This is a matchbook for a place called Abra K Dabra. There were only two locations listed and it advertised “PIZZA MAGIC.”I had to know what this was all about.

I got a lot more than I could have possibly. imagined. What I got was a story about a bargain department store looking to expand their empire, the rise and collapse of an entire niche industry and magic, magic, magic.

After doing some cursory research, I found a blurb in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch from Sunday, June 27, 1982:

K-mart Corp. is testing a new family restaurant concept featuring pizza and magic in the St. Louis Area. The company has opened two of the restaurants, called Abra K Dabra for their magic theme, at 1899 Edwardsville Road in Wood River, Ill., and at 5 Flower Valley Shopping Center in Florissant (MO). Both are adjacent to K mart discount department stores.

The restaurants feature pizza, sandwiches, salad, ice cream, beer, wine and soft drinks. Magic shows, filmed and live, are to be presented. There are token-operate video arcade games, a playroom for young children and a computerized piano bar for adults.

K-mart was looking to capitalize on the success of the success of Pizza Time (the parent company of Chuck E Cheese) and Showbiz Pizza which both used the pizza/arcade/family entertainment model.

St. Louis Post-Dispatch – July 19, 1982

In May, classified ads ran in the local papers looking for managers.  few weeks later the newly hired managers were instructed by K-mart to look for teenagers that could both be severs and magicians for the crowds. A K-Mart executive said that the number one qualification for hiring the teenagers is that they be “nice kids.” Their potential as magicians come second.

The two locations opened on June 17th, 1982 to fanfare and pizza(zz).

St. Louis Post Dispatch – July 12, 1982

But Abra K Dabra wasn’t just trying to corner the market on family entertainment, they were trying to attract adults with a new technological concept.

This brief article, “K-mart Puts Vid in Pizza Parlors” by Laura Foti that appeared in the August 7, 1982 issue of Billboard explains what K-mart was trying to accomplish.

“K-mart has found a unique way to use video clips from record companies. The retail chain is testing the clips in two in-store restaurants in St. Louis, with other locations possibly to follow.
The video clips, supplied by record companies through Handleman Co., the racker, are shown on large-screen television in the evenings. During the day, when the patrons are mostly family-oriented, K-mart’s Abra K Dabra pizza restaurants show magic acts, either live or on tape. But in the evening, according to Handleman’s Stephen Strome, “We want to attract a different crowd.”
Hence the decision to go with rock music. The record companies are thanked at the beginning of the tape, and K-mart’s own record department, the Music Place is plugged at the end.
The program, according to K-mart’s director of research Mike Wellman, is “in the early stages of development. We’ve been working with the record companies, and they’re very cooperative.”

Unfortunately for Abra K Dabra, they were doomed from the beginning. In 1983, family entertainment pizza places reached their saturation point and the bottom fell out quickly.

I haven’t found the numbers from Abra K Dabra, but Pizza Time, which had a record revenue of $99.3 million in 1982, lost over $6 million in the first few months of 1983 and had nearly $16 million in losses and write-offs of over $35 million in the fourth quarter of 1983. Showbiz Pizza also reported a loss that year. Abra K Dabra didn’t last until the end of 1983. Both locations were closed quickly in October or November with no fanfare. (EDIT: The Wood River store actually DID close with fanfare, as a young man actually chained himself to the inside of the pizza place, in hopes that they would not close it.)

 

Ultimately, the market was hurt by expensive but poor quality food, too many similar restaurants in the same market, bored parents that never grasped the video concept, and the changing taste of children who made up most of their business.

Abra K Dabra was quickly forgotten, a failed experiment in a changing time. The K-mart empire moved on without much of a hitch…for a while at least.