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Stop 54: The 1925 Telephone company

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AUDIO NARRATION*
Copyright © 2024
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The 1925 Matter of Taste (Telephone Building).

 

   Otto Wettstein arrived in Dade City with a plan for the future that truly made a difference. He and his family lived in Dade City for a few years. Perhaps one of the more renowned inhabitants, he went from extreme poverty to ingenuously develop the Florida Telephone Company.

 

      As for Wettstein’s sojourn in Dade City, it is interwoven with stories of restaurants including the most recent dining establishment of Matter of Taste on 7th Street.

 

     Wettstein purchased the telephone exchange from James Clarence Griffin which had been housed in a building at the back of Griffin Block (STOP 35). (Note that the Pasco County Telephone Company organized with sixteen lines, and by 1910, the telephone directory listed 135 phone numbers.)

 

    Wettstein let the contract for the building of a new Mediterranean Revival building for the telephone company to the firm of Hooten and Venable of Center Hill. Their plans for the building called for a two-story structure of concrete construction. The lower floor was to be fitted for use as a restaurant and was leased before construction was completed to a well-known chef, Frank Yanaros, who formerly operated a restaurant in Plant City and one in Dade City which he sold before he joined the U.S. Navy to fight in World War I. The upper floor was planned for two modern apartments, one of which would be reserved for the switchboard office and the other to be rented. The telephone company was in the process in 1925 of replacing the ground circuits with new cables that would accommodate the new phone lines and allow for growth.

 

     With economic backing from Elliott Edge of Groveland, Wettstein acquired exchanges throughout Florida. In 1925 Wettstein merged with 28 exchanges into the Florida Telephone Corporation. The Florida Telephone Corporation was purchased by United Telephone Company of Florida in 1973. United became Sprint Corporation in 1992.

 

    As for the lovely building with the decorative stucco finish, it included cloth awnings and intricate wrought iron cages on the second story windows. Known in contemporary times as A Matter of Taste Cafe, the restaurant was purchased by Jim and Carole Hendry in recent years. As their website states:

 

“A Matter of Taste” has become a staple in Dade City, and owners Jim and Carole Hendry have created a menu that reflects the diverse cultural and culinary heritage of the Tampa Bay Area from Greek, Cuban, Spanish, Italian as well as traditional Southern cuisine.

 

“Authentic” is the bottom line and foundation of their range of delicious entrees and appetizers. Many recipes have been handed down from the past to find their way to a new generation. If you want a truly “one of a kind” dining experience, be sure to visit “A Matter of Taste.”

 

“A Matter of Taste” has recently changed business ownership and an Italian Restaurant named Olio will make undoubtedly unveil more history in the next few years.

 

    The next stop will be an empty building that we are hoping will soon be filled with the livelihood and enthusiasm of its history.

  • 1874

    Alexander Graham Bell comes up with the idea of the telephone.

  • 1903

    Pasco County Telephone Company was organized by W.J. Ellsworth of Jessamine (along with John S. Flanagan, Lambertus Halsema, Sr. I.F. Corrigan, Abbott Charles Mohr and Clarence Griffin). The early phone company headquarters were in the Griffin Building at the corner of Griffin and Meridian.

  • 1903

    Telephones were erected to Blanton, Jesamine, St. Leo, and San Antonio.

  • 1910

    Otto Wettstein purchased the exchange in 1910 with assistance from Elliott Edge and combined the exchange with the Lake County Telephone Company.

  • 1916

    After some fiascos with his finances in which Wettstein lost the company, he purchased it once again.

  • 1925

    Wettstein merged into Florida Telephone Corporation with 28 exchanges.

  • 1925

    Contract given for two-story concrete hollow tile and stucco structure with lower floor fitted as a restaurant and a lease of the portion of the building taken by Frank Yanaros; upper floor to contain two three-room apartments, one to be used as central office for the operator and space for switchboard. By November 9, 1925: Pasco County Telephone moved into a new building with all new equipment and an increase of 50 percent switchboard capacity.

  • 1954

    Otto Wettstein, Jr. resigns as the president and director of the Florida Telephone Company to become president of the North Florida Telephone Company. His father Otto Wettstein remains as the chairman of the board of directors of both companies, while another son, Max Wettstein takes leadership of Florida Telephone Company.

  • 1958

    Florida Telephone Company serves central Florida from Williston to St. Cloud including Crytal River, Inverness, Bushnell, all of Lake County, Ocala, and Dade City.

  • 1967

    Distance telephone dialing for Dade City began on July, 1967 with the mayor making the first direct dial long-distance call. With 5,500 subscribers from a dozen Pasco & Hernando County communities, they were proud of the technology. The call was to U.S. Representative, A. Sydney Herlong, Jr., in Washington, D.C. with participants: Florida Telephone Company Manager Max E. Wettstein; Mayor Charles F. Touchton, Jr., Pasco County Commission Chair Archie E. Storch of San Antonio, and Mayor A.O. Kiefer of Saint Leo.

  • 1967

    Otto Wettstein passes away.

  • 1973

    Florida Telephone Company was acquired by United Telephone Company.

  • 1992

    Sprint Corporation takes over United Telephone Company.

  • 2023

    Per March 31: Restaurant, Matter of Taste, changed hands. Owned as a restaurant for twenty-six years by James and Carole Ferlita Henry, they announced that after renovation, the “old telephone company” will open as an Italian restaurant.

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