Enoch: Celebrating the historic home of Engine House Deli

Published 4:30 pm Tuesday, March 19, 2024

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This St. Patrick’s Day will mark the 40th anniversary of the Engine House Deli opened by Bob Tabor on March 17, 1984. Bob purchased the building at 9 W. Lexington Ave., remodeled the downstairs for a restaurant, and moved in upstairs. His Deli became a popular eatery, while Bob himself became a living legend in Winchester. I’ll do a tribute to Bob, “Mr. Winchester,” another time. This article recalls the 135-year history of the building

Bob not only suggested this topic but also recalled from memory a list of the building’s occupants in chronological order. I buttressed his oral history with information from other sources. Names and dates were obtained from city directories and old newspapers. Because of gaps in the record, it’s not possible say for sure that every single occupant has been identified. 

Winchester Fire Department

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In 1885 the Fire Department was installed in a one-story building at 9 W. Lexington Ave. that also housed the mayor’s office and one of Winchester’s early libraries. With the need to expand, Fire Chief W. A. Attersall got the go ahead to replace that building in 1889 with a new engine house—a two-story structure with a pressed brick front, stone trimmings, large carriage doors, and a 75-foot bell tower. It also held the mayor’s office and city hall. In October 1909 a disastrous fire destroyed Matt Bean’s carriage shop (formerly Attersall’s) before spreading next door and gutting the engine house. The 1912 Sanborn Insurance Map showed the building still vacant.

  1. W. Poynter’s “Big 4” Insurance

According to Tabor, Poynter’s insurance agency briefly located at 9 W. Lexington. Wiley T. Poynter was the senior partner in the company founded by his father, J. W. Poynter in 1866.

Dr. Ernest Cole

Dr. Ernest Cole moved his practice from North Main to the restored engine house in 1914. He lived upstairs until marrying and moving to South Highland in 1917. Described as the last of the horse-and-buggy doctors, he was said to have delivered more than 3,500 babies in his 75-year career. Cole helped establish Clark County Hospital. In 1923 he moved his office across the street to 22 W. Lexington.

Hammonds’ Lunch Room

The first record of J. J. Hammonds’ Lunch Room appears in August 1932 and was soon renamed The Sandwich Shop. Tabor recalled Mike Rowady telling stories about Hammonds’ place that opened during the Depression. Because of the cheap prices, “Uncle Jake” always had a line out the door and down the street to the alley. Jake Hammonds, who was also county jailer, closed the Shop in June 1933.

Lawrence Sandwich Shop

Scobee Lawrence purchased Hammonds’ Sandwich Shop in 1933. He advertised Plate Lunches for 25 cents and Sunday Chicken Dinners for 35 cents. Lawrence’s tenure lasted only nine months.

Hughes’ Sandwich Shop

Bill Hughes began advertising his Sandwich Shop in March 1934 and ended that November.

Old Mill Café

  1. R. Lake opened the Old Mill Café in 1935. At that time 9 W. Lexington was called the Wainscott Building, after its owner, G. L. Wainscott, the Ale‑8 man. Lake, an experienced restauranteur, installed a modern kitchen and served “genuine” turtle soup. The business lasted for less than a year.

Band Box Cleaners

Band Box Cleaners opened on South Main in 1934, then moved to 9 W. Lexington in July 1936. Paul McVey ran the business until moving to Tennessee. Thomas Hamilton took over in 1940 followed by Dessie Bramblett in 1941. The cleaning and pressing service used a popular expression of the times. The term “band box fresh” meant exquisitely neat and clean, as if just taken from a bandbox (a round box to hold hats, collars, etc.).

Victory Restaurant

In 1943 Mrs. N. J. King advertised “home-cooked meals” at the Victory Restaurant, fittingly named as the country was then embroiled in World War II.

Greyhound Grill

In January 1945 Mattie Piersall began the Greyhound Grill offering home-cooked meals, short orders, pies and pastries. She was succeeded in July by Mrs. Craycraft and Mrs. Webster. The restaurant closed in 1946.

Stone’s Grill

Bruce Stone opened his grill in 1946. A year later, after remodeling, he re-opened selling steaks and chops for dinner. His beer license was revoked in 1947 after it was reported that Bruce had been fined for being intoxicated. In 1948 the business and its contents sold at public auction.

Susan’s Restaurant

The year 1949 saw the opening of Susan’s Restaurant, owned by Larry Banninger and named for his wife Susan. 

Hollon-Gray Restaurant

In April 1950 the Banningers sold out to Mrs. Leona Hollon and Mrs. Sue Gray, who reopened as the Hollon-Gray Restaurant. They served breakfast, lunch and dinner. In 1951 Mrs. Gray left to take over the Clark County Restaurant on North Main, and Mrs. Hollon stayed on briefly until the restaurant sold again.

Merry Mae Restaurant

In April 1951, two sisters, Mary Thompson and Mae Walden, bought the Hollon-Gray Restaurant. The sisters sold the restaurant that November.

Sadie’s Snack Shop

Sadie Strode, wife of Wallace R. Strode, purchased the Merry May in November 1951 and sold it in June 1952. Wallace and Sadie had owned the popular Sweet Shop at 58 S. Main from 1926 until 1935. “Aunt Sadie,” as she was known, had sold the Sweet Shop due to ill health. She sold the Snack Shop after only seven months.

Dot’s Restaurant

Dorothy Hall purchased the venue in June 1952 and called it Dot’s Lunch, serving plate lunches, sandwiches and short orders. After expanding service they were rechristened Dot’s Restaurant. Dorothy and her husband Gentry operated the place until 1956 and perhaps later. Tabor recalled Dot’s was a hangout for St. Agatha kids; if they went to Flynn’s or Quisenberry’s “they could get a flat nose or a flat tire.”

Whitt’s Restaurant

The 1958 city directory lists Mrs. Beulah Whitt (wife of Walter) as the manager of Whitt’s Restaurant.

Larry’s Restaurant

Larry’s Restaurant operated from 1960 to 1966. The menu included turkey and dressing dinners for $1.25 and T‑bone steak dinners for $2. Tabor believes this was Larry Banninger who had previously owned Susan’s Restaurant. In 1960 Susan was running a gift shop on South Main. E. C. Kimbrell managed Larry’s in 1963, and Mr. and Mrs. Joe Tackett took over in 1965. Larry’s Restaurant sold at auction in July 1966. The building was listed as vacant in 1967.

Clark Co. ASCS Office

In 1970 the Agricultural Stabilization and Conservation Service moved in and stayed until early 1979. This federal agency made loans to farmers; administered allotment and quota programs; and shared the cost of conservation measures with farmers. Long-time ASCS Office officials during this time included Leon Puckett, executive director; Asie Crump, chairman of the Clark Co. ASC Committee; and Jimmy Allen, chairman of the Clark Co. Conservation District.

TeleCeption of Winchester

In 1978 the ASCS Office shared space with TeleCeption of Winchester, an early cable television provider; the city directory listed Thomas R. Jokerest, chief technician. TeleCeption’s main office was on South Maple.

  1. C. Redmon
  2. C. Redmon rented the upstairs apartment from 1978 through 1980. He was employed by South Central Bell. According to Tabor, South Central Bell trained telephone operators at 9 W. Lexington.

Engine House Deli

Bob Tabor and Howard Frick, his partner for a short time, purchased the building from Tom Gullett in 1983, and opened the Engine House Deli & Domino Parlor the following year. Tabor furnished the restaurant with odds and ends from Allman’s Restaurant, Oliver Street School, Barn Dinner Theater, and many others. The Deli grew in popularity, becoming a destination for kids after school and for their parents on evenings and weekends. Over the years Tabor trained more than 200 young people he employed at the restaurant. He also made his famous River Rat beer cheese in the kitchen. Tabor sold the Deli to Steve Adkins in 2005. The restaurant carries on today as the Engine House Pizza Pub under Chad Walker and his wife Jill who started working there in high school.