S&W Cafeteria (17)

S-and-W

516 South Gay Street

Built in 1937, when cafeterias were considered urbane, modern, even futuristic, and still potentially glamorous, this Knoxville landmark served three meals a day until it closed in 1981.

The S&W Cafeteria was the brainchild of Frank Sherrill (S) and Fred Webber (W). The first Knoxville S&W opened next to the Tennessee Theatre in 1928. A decade of success spurred the move down Gay Street to this location, where construction combined City National Bank and a neighboring building, removing the facades, and keeping the long-hidden third-floor skylight. It is often called the finest example of Art Deco commercial architecture in Tennessee.

The S&W was a Knoxville institution, as were its legendary employees, including Lois Harris, who played the organ at the base of the sweeping staircase during lunch and dinner, and waiter Tennyson “Slim” Dickenson, who was still working at the age of 82 on the day the cafeteria closed. After almost 50 years, the S&W closed its doors and remained vacant until 2009, when the space was completely restored and re-opened for commercial use.

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