NEW KNOXVILLE – On a bright and sunny Monday morning, Oct. 10, contractor equipment began the demolition of the former Adolph’s restaurant, a 110-year-old New Knoxville landmark with a long history in the village. The building was located at 100 N. Main St.
New Knoxville Historical Society museum curator Rusty Elsass explained how the demolition of the former community gathering place had come to pass.
“In the spring of 2022, a tremendous storm with high winds tore off two-thirds of the roof, with much of the upper floor’s roof and supporting structure hanging off the back of building,” he said. Water damage at that time happened only on the second floor. A contractor came and covered the roof with a blue tarp while the building owner tried to assess the damage.
“But within two weeks, a second storm hit and those high winds and heavy rains did further damage to the roof, with rain seeping all the way down to the first floor, damaging the wainscoting, the woodwork, beams and floors. All of it was bowed and buckled from the moisture,” he explained.
When an inspector came and also discovered the under-structure’s main beam was cracked and water damaged, it was decided the cost to fix the damage far out-valued the building. On June 9, the New Knoxville village council agreed unanimously to an emergency resolution to purchase the property for $1.
In August, council awarded the demolition project to Advanced Demolition Services of McComb for $58,750. The contract required the building to be razed by the end of October.
Elsass said the building’s history began in the early 1900’s, when Ben Cook determined he was going to create a dry goods and mercantile store. Groundbreaking was in July 1902, with the grand opening in the Spring of 1903. Elsass said in 1910, the New Knoxville Telephone Company (now known as NKTelco) set up shop on the second floor. “Because the phone company was in the building’s phone number was No .1.”
A record in an early New Knoxville history book by George Kattman, said “The (mercantile) store is the best equipped store of any town the size of New Knoxville or even any town.”
In January 1936, the building was purchased by Adolph and Lidia Henchen, who since 1921 had operated a smaller restaurant directly east of the building, on East Bremen Street, which they called The Star Lunch Room.
“After a complete renovation, the building was opened as the Double A restaurant,” said Elsass. “The two A’s were for Adolph’s first and middle names.” “There was a saloon for the adults on one side and a dining room for the kids. The second floor held housing for short term renters,” he continued.
In 1975, according to Elsass, the building changed hands to cooperative effort of eight local business owners. “They bought it to protect its heritage and keep the restaurant open because it had always been a central meeting place in the community, a social gathering spot, and really hopping after sports games,” said Elsass.
He said the new owners totally remodeled the place, putting the kitchen in the middle of the building. The front parlor dominated the front of the building and a dining room was placed in back. A drive through was also established. When they reopened, it was named Adolph’s.
“Mindful of the building’s history, the eight owners kept the vintage pieces in shadow boxes, and included everything from original silverware to tin toys to beer steins and old bottles,” he explained.
But times changed and the original eight owners were down to two. They were growing older and were finding it harder to manage the place while they also took care of their own businesses. Elsass said they could not find a buyer and so closed Adolph’s in the mid-90’s. It was then sold to attorney Ryan Miltner, who kept his law offices there. He only used the first floor and the second floor was vacant.
Before the building could be razed, the New Knoxville historical society, according to Elsass, bought up all the old vintage materials including the old photos from the 1986 Sesquicentennial. New Knoxville mayor Keith Leffel said at an earlier council meeting the land will be available for other commercial development.