White Elephant of Denison
301 West Main Street, Denison, Texas 75020
The historic building shown upper right in about 1900 was located on two of the original Denison city lots at 301 and 303 West Main, at the northwest corner of West Main and Rusk streets. The building was built in 1884 by Owen McCarthy and occupied by the White Elephant Saloon from 1884 to 1892.
This building was heavily damaged by a fire on Christmas Eve of 1944. By October of 1945, a new and more modern store was completed. In 1961, the historic lines were lost after a complete remodeling project when a cement shell covered this structure and the expanded space of a building next door at 305 West Main, acquired from the Esler Paint Store in the 1950's. A few years later, in January of 1967, the building was destroyed by a spectacular fire while thousands of people watched as they gathered around the site. Note: The information in this paragraph was obtained from the Denison Library's microfilm of the January 15, 1967 edition of the Denison Herald. From 1896 to 1967 the Madden Department Store (originally Madden, Graham & Co.) was located here, except for a few years in the 1950's when the building was occupied by Dunlaps, a department store.
The present day building, 301-305 West Main and shown lower right, was completed by Tobe and Angie Madden in 1967. Lilley's Department Store and Apple Furniture were previously located in this building from 1968 to 2011. Prior to the Madden's Store opening in 1896, Hibbard Bros. Grocers was located here for about three years.
From 1884 to 1892 the White Elephant Saloon and Restaurant, as described below in a local newspaper of the time, was in business at this location under a number of different proprietors. The saloon, billiards, and restaurant were on the first floor, and club (gambling) and sleeping rooms were on the second floor, according to the Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps of 1885 and 1892.
The building was owned by Owen McCarthy, and later his heirs, until the early 1900's. McCarthy operated his hardware business at this location from about 1876 to 1883. Owen McCarthy's name is on the cornice at the center top of the historic building shown upper right.
The advertisement at left appeared in the Denison Sunday Gazette on September 27, 1885. A year earlier, articles were written about the White Elephant Saloon and Restaurant in the August 3d and 31st, 1884 edition of the same paper. The furniture and general appearance were described as "simply magnificant and alluring". The restaurant was "a meritorius enterprise, such as should be encouraged" and was "the only restaurant in the city where you can get just such a meal as your fancy may suggest". The fare of oysters, fish, meats, vegetables, salads, soups, game, eggs, sweets, cheese, tea, milk, coffee, etc., etc. was cooked to order by Leon Bottis, an experienced Italian cook. The restaurant was managed by Mr. Jas. Tongenatti, a polite gentleman ably assisted by Paul S. Miguel.
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