Texas Over Time: Waco’s Elite Café-the 1952 Renovation and Magnolia Table, Today

May 21, 2019 geoff_hunt

 

By Geoff Hunt, Audio and Visual Curator

Texas has changed quite a bit over the years, as is readily seen in our vast photograph and postcard collections. To help bring some of those changes to life, we’ve created a “Texas over Time” series of Meta Slider’s that will illustrate the construction and renovations of buildings, street scenes, and more. Our collections are especially strong on Waco and Baylor images, but look for some views beyond the Heart of Texas, too.

Waco’s Elite Café-the 1952 Renovation and Magnolia Table, Today

In about 1920, Waco’s Elite Café began under the operation of brothers Vic, George, and Mike Colias. They were so successful at this original location at 608 Austin Avenue that they decided to open another in 1941, at Waco’s Traffic Circle. This second location proved profitable and led to more “expansion and modernization” making for some significant updates in the year 1952, when the Elite’s first major upgrades were made. To help publicize this, commercial photographer Fred Marlar was hired. The Texas Collection has his original 4×5-inch film negatives of this work and a look back to these pictures and a glimpse of present-day Magnolia Table may help highlight some of these early changes made to this very popular restaurant on Waco’s Traffic Circle.

 

In 1952, the Elite on the Circle received refreshed exterior paint, a new building wing, and a “new glassed in vestibule…so that patrons can wait for their cars out of the weather.” Additionally, The kitchen received major upgrades as well leading Vic Colias to claim: “nothing was spared to make it the finest of its kind in the Southwest.” This included: “ceramic tile wainscoting that adds color and facilitates cleaning. The floor was rebuilt to permit daily steam hosing and scrubbing. The kitchen is arranged so that each bit of food travels in the orderly progression from the time it arrives at the back door to until it is served at the diner.”

 

The newly remodeled kitchen as photographed by Fred Marlar in 1952. Fred Marlar collection #2980, The Texas Collection, Baylor University.

To add emphases to the 1952 expansion and modernization of the Elite, the Colias brothers reminded the public of some of their first business “firsts” and some some now must-have needs for central Texas. This included “mechanical refrigeration for perishable foods,” which they introduced in 1921. Additionally, they claimed among the first “refrigerated air-conditioning in 1935,” in their Waco, Austin Avenue restaurant. Once these environmental comforts were firmly in place in the Colias brothers’ restaurants, more attention could be given to style and decor. In 1952, updates to the 11 year-old Elite on the Circle included new booths that were a “neutral shade of plastic which blends with the color scheme.” Further, a new wing was added to the building and was referred to as the “banquet room.” It was advertised as having “wall-to-wall carpeting in a subdued shade of green,” and “gleaming white tablecloths on the new tables that contrast with the rich grey tones of the walls.” This lead the Colias brother’s to state: “the appearance of this dining area exemplifies the name Elite.”

The “all-new and comfortable booths” as photographed by Fred Marlar in 1952. Fred Marlar collection #2980, The Texas Collection, Baylor University.
The newly constructed “banquet room” as photographed by Fred Marlar in 1952. Fred Marlar collection #2980, The Texas Collection, Baylor University.
A look inside the Elite’s freezer as photographed by Fred Marlar in 1952. Fred Marlar collection #2980, The Texas Collection, Baylor University.

Check out this Flickr Set for more pictures of Waco’s Elite Café on the Traffic Circle

Works cited:

“Waco’s Restaurant Elite.” The Waco News-Tribune. May 23, 1952.

 

 

 

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