The building in this rendering is subject of an important "first" in Wayne. Can you guess the location and the date of its construction?
This building was built in 1928 on North Wayne Avenue, as the first restaurant on the block that is today's "restaurant row." Though many of the restaurants along the avenue today operate in re-purposed storefronts (today's Teresa's, for example, had previously been a drapery store on the left and a paint store on the right), this was the first dedicated restaurant building in town. It was built for J.M. Fronefield, longtime local realtor, by contractor Charles B. Palmer from plans by architects MacKenzie & Wiley. The first tenant was the "Venice Cafe," owned by Attelio Orazi and Thomas Umani, who had operated the restaurant first in a storefront on East Lancaster Avenue near what is now Red Mango. Fronefield erected the new structure specifically for Orazi and Umani. It featured dining rooms upstairs and downstairs, with a grand staircase linking the two. A special dinner was held Saturday, September 29, 1928, for the restaurant's formal opening. This rendering is from a newspaper advertisement promoting that dinner.
Since that time, the building has remained a restaurant. As La Fourchette, the area's premier French restaurant, the edifice likely gained more fame than during its Venice Cafe days. It briefly modernized its name and menu to become "Fourchette 110" in 1999. Over the past ten years it has taken on a variety of personae: Vivo Enoteca, The Freehouse, which attempted to replicate the English pub experience; Mims Food + Drink, whose occupancy ended in a bit of a scandal; and now the Matador, which has been open for about two years. The next time you dine there, think back to the Venice Cafe, to a time when there was just one restaurant on North Wayne Avenue!
- Greg Prichard, Radnor Historical Society