FIRE I AT THE UNIVERSITY Entire Madison Fire Department Unable to Check Blaze Which Broke Out at 10: 15 HALL VALUED AT $202,000 Fifteen Hundred Students in Building No Loss of Life As They Escape Flames LOSS NOT OVER $10,000.
Madison. October 10. Main hall at the university is in ruins. A smouldering fire was discovered under the dome at 10:13 a. m., and within an hour the massive dome had crumbled and fallen. The entire Madison fire department was on the ground. Main hall is valued at $202,000. At 11:30 Fire Chief Heyl said the hall was practically ruined. The building is insured in the state fire Insurance fund for $184,000. The contents are valued at $36,000. Fifteen hundred students were in the building when the fire was discovered. They got out in orderly fashion. There were no mishaps, but there were many miraculous escapes. As soon as the fire was discovered. one hundred students scaled the roof of the hall to fight the blaze. Fire lines were quickly thrown out and five thousand people were at the lire within twenty minutes. The original structure was built under an appropriation of $45,000 made by the legislature in 1857. Since then two wings have been added. President Van Hise of the university said; “The fire apparently started in the literary society room or in the dome.’ The alarm was immediately turned in and the equipment here in the building was manned by the force of janitors augmented by students. We are particularly proud of the way the thousands of students in the building conducted themselves. There was no disorder of any kind and nothing resembling a panic. We had planned against such a calamity and had a routine fire drill that worked perfectly. I did not know how long It took them to get out. Last year when we tried it they got out in two minutes. As far as damage is concerned, of course, I am unable to say at the present time. 1 hope it will not be large. We are doing everything we can do.”
The fire was believed to have been caused by an errant cigarette.
The following appeared on the Ella’s Deli’s website in January 2018:
It is with sad hearts that we announce that Ella’s Deli will be closing at our current location. It has been our privilege to be a part of the Madison community for 42 years. Ella’s has always been about people and we are so very grateful to all our customers and employees. To the many families that have visited us, including over multiple generations, we have enjoyed getting to know you and meeting your children and then your children’s children. To the thousands of amazing former and current employees we have had over the years, your dedication has made Ella’s the award winning destination it is today. Our goal is to continue the Ella’s tradition. It is our hope that Ella’s will be back under new ownership, in a new space, and with a new and exciting direction. We hope you can visit us, say hi, and enjoy your favorites one last time. Our last day of business will be around January 21, 2018. We may modify our hours to accommodate our employees. We will update on our Facebook page with changes as we make them. Thank you again for allowing us to be a part of this community by including us in so many moments in your lives, from celebrating birthdays, to first dates, to just enjoying family dinners. We are forever grateful for your support.
Ella Fodiman Hirschfeld was born on February 28, 1914 in Russia and came to America as an infant. She grew up in a Russian/Jewish area in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. At the age of 19 she met and married Harry C. Hirschfeld and the couple made their way to Madison in 1939. Ella was very active in her faith and through local Jewish organizations. She was a founding member of Beth Israel center in Madison and she was Administrative Secretary to multiple rabbis.
On July 4, 1963, Ella and Harry opened Ella’s Deli in downtown Madison, Wisconsin. Ella had been catering meals for the Hillel organization at the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus and her rabbi loved the food so much that he suggested she should open a deli. The Hirschfeld’s bought an old grocery store at 425 State Street and christened the business Ella’s Deli, as the local Jewish students had gotten to know Ella so well.
Business boomed from the start. Ella told the Wisconsin State Journal in 1993, “we worked very hard getting it organized, but on Saturdays and Sundays, we used to have lines that reached around the corner.” The corned beef, roast beef and homemade pound cake were the biggest sellers.
Unfortunately for Ella and Harry, the business got too successful and they had a hard time keeping up. The sold Ella’s Deli in 1967 to Nathan Balkin. Under Balkin business continued to flourish and Ella’s was about to expand. A second location at 2902 E. Washington Ave. (East Wash) opened in 1976. Ella Hirschfeld died in 1995.
The second location was smashing success. The menu featured many traditional Jewish items including matzo ball soup, liver, tongue, kugel, blintzes, bagels. There were also dozens of soup, salad and sandwich options. The real kicker was the ice cream counter, which had 26 flavors of Chocolate Shoppe ice cream and a modified version Ella’s pundcake recipe that was turned into a poundcake sundae.
The food and ice cream weren’t the only reason for Ella’s success. Owner Ken Balkin, son of Nathan, described the location on East Wash as a “Jewish Deli (crossed) with animated circus toys.” He went to say that “Ella’s reputation as a destination restaurant has grown along with its burgeoning collection of whizzing, whirling antique toys and its remarkable 1929 vintage Parker carousel next to the Parking lot. It’s an amazing place with a design that is totally distinctive.”
There were 40 unique tables, with tchotchkes and trinkets under glass, superheroes, trains planes, clowns, robots and famous cartoon characters covered the restaurant, which had a capacity of 150 people.
Ella’s on State Street closed in 1999. In late 2017, Ken Balkin announced that they were looking to sell Ella’s quickly. He stated “We have decided that the time is right. The economics have just been difficult recently. The competitive nature of the restaurant business in Madison is pretty brutal.” Having found no seller, that’s when they official announced on Facebook and their website that they were closing for good.
On January 21, 2018 a giant celebration was held to honor the 42 years of Ella’s. Tears flowed and hugs plentiful. The local landmark closed its doors that night. The building is still vacant.
A letter in Wisconsin State Journal on January 27, 2018 summed up perfectly what Ella’s meant to Madison:
We have enjoyed Ella’s Deli since its opening, and we want to honor and appreciate the good things the Balkins have done in addition to the remarkable ways they have fed and entertained us. From the opening of Ella’s Deli and over the decades, the Balkins have created a gift for the people of Madison. This iconic place of kosher-style food, and with its wonderful toy collection, has offered a warm welcome and unique entertainment for all ages. In addition to gracious hospitality, the Balkins have offered safe employment opportunities for many young people and adults in their ﬁrst job experiences. In our personal visits, we have enjoyed the friendship of Ken and Judy Balkin and members of the staff. They introduced us to new, constantly changing artistic displays of cartoon characters and dream creations, descending from the ceiling and all around us. We have seen these fantasies bring joy to toddlers and “children at heart.” Many Madison citizens have pursued their entrepreneurial dreams — few have accomplished them as successfully as the Balkins. We are sorry to see Ella’s Deli disappear from the Madison landscape. It has been a shimmering jewel, welcoming all of us. We thank the Balkins and wish them well in their retirement. – Howard and Lucetta Kanetzke, Madison
Crawford Marvel-Lift Garage Door For Home and Industry. A Madison organization with a payroll in excess of $100,000 annually – pledged to do a good job at a fair price. Owned and operated by Don McNearney.
The Park Motor Inn at 26 Carroll Street in Capitol Square in downtown Madison, Wisconsin. The new motel was built on the site of the former Park Hotel and opened for business on April 30, 1963.
The motel was part of the urban renewal of Capitol Square in Madison, Wisconsin. An article that appeared in the Wisconsin State Journal on May 6, 1963:
An Exciting Downtown Madison Madison’s downtown stands on the threshold of an exciting future. But it has to step over that threshold. On the other side of the threshold is the promise that Madison downtown can become a true regional shopping center not the metropolitan shopping area that it has been for years. It has the potential of drawing people in to shop from far greater areas than ever before, in the same manner that Milwaukee drew carloads of Madison’s women to that city for a day of shopping in exciting stores, a good dinner in a swanky restaurant, and a show. As a matter of fact, this tide is already turning. People who used to be considered wholly in the Milwaukee sphere are shifting to Madison, pulled here by the tug of advertising and good roads. Powerful forces are acting to make Madison’s downtown area that regional shopping center. One Is that of modern roads. The Interstate-highways are making it possible to turn people from other shopping areas to Madison. They are bringing people from farther away. The Monona Bay causeway keys into this road system, asthe city’s own expressway from the outside of town beltlines and I-roads to the heart of the city. The effort so far, and it has been a big and a concerned effort, has been mainly on the part of the city and county. The city and county have put in the big parking lots and ramps, one block off the Capitol Square at each of its four corners which bailed downtown merchants and office building owners out of a tight parking problem in recent years. The city is putting in the causeway which will make downtown if it wants to do its part in the effort the regional shopping center that can make it a mecca for shoppers in ever increasing numbers. To their credit, there are people downtown who are beginning to make an effort to work out a better future. They did, it is true, give the cold shoulder to Design for Tomorrow, the plush long-range scheme for bettering downtown. They did not come up with planning when the years drifted by that saw the powerful shopping center complexes grow up in the suburbs. But now they are looking at changing zoning to increase downtown population densities. They are looking at ramping Block 110, near the Belmont hotel. Several have risked dollars, big dollar amounts, in such buildings as the new Anchor Savings and Loan Assn. and the Park Motor Inn, along with remodeling. This is progress. But it is piecemeal attack. What downtown needs, now that the city has gone about as far as it can go, is for private interests to plan a downtown that will be so exciting that people can‘t stay away.
The Park Motor Inn featured a rooftop seating area called Top O’ The Park Terrace. Cocktails and food were served eight stories high with a view of the state capitol.
An article in the Wisconsin State Journal on October 29, 1962:
View’s Well Worth the Top of the Park “Ever wonder what the view was going to be like from the “Top of the Park” when the Park Motor Inn is finished on the Capitol Square? Well, this photo shows you the spectacular Madison sky line as it will look to a person sitting in the top floor restaurant and bar in not too many more weeks. And the “celebrant,” the first to sit at a table in the area of the new restaurant and bar, is Warren Crandall, 4330 DeVolis pkwy. He’s a member of the Madison. Theater Guild, and consented to put on full dress for the photo. From the top of the big hotel, there’s a view of both Madison lakes, at either side, and the Capitol to the front. And in between, are the roof tops of many a Madison building generally seen only at the street level. By the end of last week, the carpenters on the Park Motor Inn had formed the floor which will extend about half way to the fore on the eighth floor. The section under roof will contain the restaurant and bar, and will be almost completely enclosed by glass so that the view will be uninterrupted on all sides. Glass doors will open to the front part of the roof, where Crandall sits, which will be an open air patio. This portion of the roof will have a railing high enough for a feeling of security, yet low enough to give a continued view of the city. And, off to the left, the visitor to the Top of the Park can look down to the open patio on the second floor, with its swimming pool near to the big banquet hall and convention center. “
A postcard view showing the Top o’ The Park Terrace, published around 1963, shows the view of the state capitol.
The building contained a pharmacy, barber shop and travel agency.
The Park Motor Inn survived until 1979, at which part is was renamed Inn on the Park
Not every fairy tale has a happy ending. In 2011, after more than five decades of seasonal operation, Storybook Land in the Wisconsin Dells closed its doors for good.
The ten acre park was located between Dells Army Ducks and the legendary water park known as Noah’s Ark near Lake Delton. The grounds were filled with concrete statues and colorful sights filled with classic stories ranging from The Three Little Bears to Cinderella to Jack-Be-Nimble and nearly two dozen more fairy tales. During its busiest period there were costumed characters wandering the well-manicured, floral-laden grounds. Four ponds were located in the park, each named after one of FLath’s daughters. The whole park served as a peaceful escape from the thrill-a-minute, tourist crazy environment.
Storybook Gardens was first conceived in 1956 by Dells Duck operator Melvin Flath as a roadside attraction for kids and the whole family. Flath was considered slightly crazy by locals because Storybook Gardens was away from downtown and the other Dells attractions like the Tommy Bartlett Show and Wisconsin Deer Park. However, Flath’s location was perfect. Away from the other sights, the Gardens stood alone and captured travelers either as they entered or exited the Dells.
Thousands upon thousands of families visited the park over the years. For a few years in the late 1950s/early 1960s it was the main attraction in the area. However, the park never really made much money. Flath would only operate the park for a few years before turning it over to another group which included Tom Egan who ran the park for over 30 years until selling it in 1989.
By the 1990s the park was seen as a relic of a different. Lost in the sea of flashier theme parks and more modern attractions, the park struggled to remain open. Ownership would change hands several more times with each owner selling for a lesser price. In 2010 the park closed for the season and never re-opened for the 2011. The decision to close was based on dwindling attendance and the fact that the land proved more valuable than the attraction.
The statuary was sold off one-by-one and the welcome center, in the shape of a boat, was sold to be used as a firefighter training facility.
WHAT: Hotel fire WHEN: January 10, 1883 WHERE: Milwaukee, Wisconsin FATALITIES: At least 74, maybe as many as 90
Chicago Daily Tribune – January 11, 1883
The Newhall House was built by a group led buy Daniel Newhall. It was opened to the public on August 26th, 1857. The building was made of Milwaukee Brick and occupied the corner Broadway and Michigan Streets in downtown Milwaukee.
The largest and finest hotel in the West had already narrowly escaped disaster. On February 14, 1863, a blaze broke out in a room occupied by a newly-married couple, and before it was extinguished nine apartments were lost.
The Newhall House as it looked in the late 1860s. Photo courtesy of Jeff Beutner.
On the morning of January 10, 1883 disaster struck. At around 4am fire was discovered and in less than 30 minutes the entire building was destroyed by fire. The fire started in the elevator shaft and spread very quickly through the wooden and brick building.
The Newhall House had long been considered a hazard by the Milwaukee Fire Department due to its poor management, construction, ventilation and lack of exits.
Unfortunately for those that perished, the were no laws/ordinances to force the Newhall to make the changes that may have spared lives.
Further Particulars of the Terrible Calamity
The scene on the morning of January 10th was pure chaos and pandemonium.
The Reno Evening Gazette from later that day describes the scene with colorful details common to newspapers at the time.
The burning of the Newhall House at Milwaukee this morning…is another terrible illustration of not providing efficient means of exit to public building. Over 60 human being were roasted alive in that death box, and many of the victims, too, in full view of the vast multitude standing in the street below, unable to succor the perishing mortals. The thought is too horrifying to realize. The reports received refer to the the building as a “death trap,” and it seems public attention had been called to the unsafe conditioning of the building in case hast exit should ever become necessary, still nothing was done to remedy the fault. Cannot some law be passed compelling the owners of public buildings to properly protect those who must visit them?
Note – The call for more exits and safety will become a common theme for fires/disasters featured on City in Ruins.
The fire spread with such fearful rapidity that it was not in the power of man to save the building, and it is a marvel that the skill and bravery of the firemen were able to confine that sea of flame within the blackened walls of the hotel.
The valuable buildings and the wealth of merchandise now in the block of that ill-fated house are indebted for their preservation to the well-directed and fearless work of the Fire Department. The Police were equally prompt in responding to the first call, and they braved every danger in the discharge of their duty.
The fire killed at least 74 and as many as 90. 48 victims remained unidentified.Several hundred people were hurt. The registry for the hotel was destroyed in the fire so the number varies on how many guests were in the hotel that night. Estimates put it at around 800.
The dead were memorialized with a monument in Forest Home Cemetery.
General Tom Thumb, of P.T. Barnum circus fame, and his wife were guests of the Newhall House that fateful night. They were ultimately rescued from the sixth floor by a firefighter named O’Brien. O’Brien managed to get a fire ladder up to their floor and held the tiny couple under one arm while holding his swaying ladder with the other. Tom Thumb would pass away 6 months later. His death was not related to the fire. Approximately 12 to 15 other people were saved.
Reno Evening Gazette – January 10, 1883
Ruins of the Newhall House a few hours later – January 10, 1883. Note the telegraph poles. Image courtesy of Jeff Beutner.
On January 23rd. an inquest of the dead began in the Municipal Court of Milwaukee City Hall. Details were discussed in length and interviews were conducted with witnesses. Thirteen days after the trial began, the jury, consisting of: a builder, 2 contractors, a clergyman, a railroad employee, and a merchant came back with these findings:
The Newhall was set on fire by a person or persons unknown
There was only one night watchman at the time and he was unable to attend to his proper duties, as there should have been at least 2 or 3 watchmen
The watchman and the night clerk, obeying previous instructions by the proprietors, lost valuable time trying to put out the fire and neglects to wake up the patrons of the hotel
When they finally did try to awaken people the halls were filled with so much smoke that they decided to save themselves
The Newhall was devoid of proper exits. There were escape ladders on the northeast and southeast corners, and a bridge near the southwest corner leading across the alley, an inside servants’ stairway from the fifth story to the basement, and two large open stairways in the front corridors leading from the office floor to the sixth floor, with an open ladder to the roof. That was not nearly enough for a hotel that size.
The owners were incredibly negligent – knowing that fires had taken place in the hotel – by not having more exits.
The Fire Department did their duty as well as could be expected, but could have done much more had the ladder trucks been fully manned and equipped with the best extension ladders and the men well drilled to handle them.
Telegraph poles and wires caused serious obstruction to the Fire Department by preventing them from using their ladders in a speedy and efficient manner.
A man named George Scheller was charged with setting the fire. The trial was held in April of 1883 and Schiller was acquitted on all charges. An editorial in Green Bay Weekly Gazette blamed Schiller’s charge on living “fast.”
Green Bay Weekly Gazette, April 21, 1883
No one was ever convicted of starting the Newhall House fire.
Detroit Free-Press, December 31, 1994
The Newhall fire started getting cities to realize that having low hanging telegraph wires was a danger and putting them underground may spare precious minutes in an incident such as this. It also would to help ease the blight of burgeoning downtowns.
The Detroit Free-Press ran a brief editorial on December 31, 1884 that called for their removal in the upcoming year.
Milwaukee and other major cities would removed those poles over the next few years.
Marquette University and Gesu Church – Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Mailed from Milwaukee, Wisconsin to Mrs. George R. Fitzgerald of Chicago, Illinois on December 30, 1911:
Milw. Wis 12/30/11
I’ll aim to write letter tomorrow to 2021. Am doing well.
Planted a bet here at the University O.K. & got the cash in pocket after big debate. Excitement time. Good that I actually know more abt. the sub. than any of the prof. or scholars, whom I meet. Selah!
Thus far in all case where I’ve left a set to exam – the order came.
“Beer to the right of them, beer to the left of them, around, popping and gurgled” etc. etc. Recital of the Charge of the Light Brigade.
P.S. the 2nd request to see a set by ordering, each proved O.K. & I planted 2 & got the “wealth” O.K.
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.
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
Closed: January, 1976
Location: 41st Floor, Prudential Building, 130 E. Randolph St.
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 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.”
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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
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 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.
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
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
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
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
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.