A NOTE ABOUT THE WORK ON THE VIOLA CAFE BUILDING
Having enjoyed hundreds of meals in this restaurant since it evolved from the Waddle Inn in the 1970s and ‘80s, our family thought this building that has been Nancy’s, Marie’s, and Country Corner was the perfect location for Viola. The work on 102 N. Elm began in June of 2004.
We began by pulling down one tile from a suspended ceiling, basically to see what was being covered up and if there were problems overhead. What we found was a beautiful piece of ornamental pressed tin. It didn’t take long to pull down the rest of the suspended ceiling: pressed tin throughout the dining room! Where the old tin was irreparably damaged, workmen were able to use panels from back storerooms as replacements. Though the tin was flaking and discolored, they were able to sand it and repaint it. Doubters & skeptics among us were grudgingly impressed.
It was at the junction of the dropped ceiling with the dining room’s front windows that we realized there was a lot of plywood attached to the tops of all the windows, both inside and out. The plywood made it impossible to get at our pressed tin; there was nothing to do but remove it, which we began to do ever so gingerly. Another incredible surprise: prismatic glass panels at the top of every street-side window. Just one panel was missing; very likely it had been removed in order to make room for an air conditioning unit. Prismatic glass was developed before the invention of electric light and was used in the early 1900s wherever people wanted to maximize the diffusion of natural light. We put out the word to friends and neighbors that we were looking for the window that had been removed. On the day we were scheduled to order a plain glass substitute for the prismatic panel, a gentleman from Three Oaks drove up to our front door and said to the glass-cutters measuring the space, "I’ve got that missing window in my garage." All remaining doubters and skeptics became hard-core believers.
Our next door neighbors both remembered that when they were young, they had come into the building that was then a Western Auto. They assured us that there was a beautiful wooden floor underneath the carpet and plywood we were standing on. Sure enough, they were right!
The restoration of 102 N. Elm has been a rewarding treasure hunt. We hope anyone with further information about this lovely old building will tell us all the details! We hope too that you’ll enjoy your visit to VIOLA and come back again soon.
Andrea and George Platz