Saturday, October 15, 2011

Chattaway, a St. Petersburg Landmark

One of St. Petersburg, Florida's oldest landmarks is a restaurant named Chattaway. The wooden structure was built in 1922 as Four Corners Grocery, though today we'd probably recognize it more as a general store. When Prohibition was repealed in 1933, the store reincarnated as Chattaway Drive-In. Lights were strung up outside and car-hops served beer and wine. In those days, Chattaway was surrounded by swampland and a nearby creek, and it was not unusual to see an alligator near the drive-in.

By the 1940s, Chattaway was selling hamburgers, and in 1951, Helen Lund became the owner. Today Chattaway is owned and operated by her daughter-in-law, Jillian Lund Frer, and is staffed with a fourth generation of the family.

Jillian Frer is a most charming lady, originally from England, and she's turned Chattaway into an appealing mixture of Florida and England.

Residents of St. Petersburg will immediately envision bathtubs when they think of Chattaway. Jillian installed six cast-iron tubs along the perimeter for decoration, and as a sort of traffic barrier, and soon people were dropping them off. Today there are 44, and Jillian says, "No more!"

Jillian has been a professional actress for 60 years, and performed at Q Theatre in Kew Gardens before coming to the States. Chattaway shows much evidence of that past, and of course there was a celebration at the restaurant when Prince William married Catherine Middleton.

In the dining room, a pitcher from the 1901 coronation of King Edward VII, and a frosted window with matching curtains.

Chattaway, home of the Chattaburger, in the early evening.


  1. That second picture through the archway looks so inviting. The brick pattern (I love bricks as a visual element) looks very complicated, and must have been installed by a master landscaper.
    --Road to Parnassus

  2. Dear Mark - this is a lovely post, just sums up that area of Florida to me. Lots of colour, quirky detail and fun. I love the bathtubs, did Jillian paint them herself or have them done for her?
    I have just prepared a post on Anna Marie Island.

  3. Hi, Parnassus - The brickwork has been there for decades, and the archway is at the end of a bridge that goes over a tiny pond.I feature Jillian because much of the place's charm comes from her fertile imagination.

  4. Hi, Rosemary - A young man was painting the bathtubs the day I photographed them. His work reminds me a little of a group of black artists who sold landscapes to tourists along Florida roads in the 1950s. They became known as "Highwaymen," and today their work is very collectible.

    I'll look forward to your posting on Anna Maria island.

  5. This looks like such an inviting place. Love those metal birds and the coloful night time lights. 44 bathtubs !?

    Another winning post, Mark.

  6. Hi, Yvette - The great thing about those metal birds is that they're positioned so that only those walking by get a look — a fun little detail to discover, and one of many.

  7. It looks delightful. So much creativity must translate to produce good food, too.

  8. Hi, Classicist - It's certainly an enjoyable spot for a cold beer and outdoor dining.

  9. I think it is reassuring in this day and age to see a business that is still in family hands after so long.

  10. Hi, David - I quite agree. St. Petersburg, Florida is a large city with a small-town atmosphere, and I can think of three restaurants within it that have been run by three families for a total of more than 150 years. In the age of fast food, that's rather remarkable.

  11. Hi Mark,
    I'm not sure why my comment did not go through on this post, but I'll try again.
    This last photograph is so effective. It makes you want to be sitting there and enjoy the evening at Chattaway.

  12. Hi, Anyes - I think you would enjoy an evening there! Lights are strung up all year round, light jazz and Reggae music is playing, and one feels mellow sitting at the Chattaway.