Stop 54: The 1925 Telephone company
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.