The Restoration of the S & W Building in Asheville
When architect Douglas Ellington designed the iconic Art Deco S & W Building in Asheville in 1929, he would have been so pleased to know that his Great Nephew, Andrew Ellington, resurrected the treasure in 2017, and, along with an ambitious group of visionary developers, returned the three story building to its 1929 splendor. Originally the home of the S & W Cafeteria, the building was closed in 1974 when S & W moved its operation to the Asheville Mall. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1977, but sat empty until briefly reopened in 2007 as a steakhouse and coffee shop. It closed again in 2011, and sat empty for six more years. Ellington was well known around Asheville, helping to design the Asheville High School, the City Hall, and the First Baptist Church.
The facade of the brick building is covered in grey ashlar, a fine masonry similar to Inca walls in Machu Picchu. It features polychrome tile ornamentation and exotic stylistic motifs.
The Art Deco interior now features an eatery and market called The S & W Artisanal, with an upscale restaurant on the mezzanine….
…that features a full cocktail bar…
… and a casual eatery on the first floor below.
Behind S&W Artisanal is restaurant designer Theodore Kondylis, restaurateur Sakis Elefantis and local businessmen Douglas and Kenneth Ellington, the great-nephews of the architect Douglas Ellington. The new restaurant includes a bakery, two cocktail bars, a coffee bar, private dining and a retail market offering local food items and specialty imported products from Greece.
In the basement under the restaurant is a performance club called Ellington Underground…
The art deco venue is already proving itself on Asheville’s music scene. It is the brainchild of Andrew Ellington, a touring musician himself. Only in his mid-20s, Andrew has assembled an impressive setup, transforming a concrete box once used for parking into a cutting-edge listening room. Preserving the original art deco style, Ellington Underground balances old and new with lattice wallpaper, black-and-white tile floors, Edison bulbs and exposed beams. There are also old elevator shafts in the building that, during the tail end of Prohibition, allowed liquor to be transported directly from Commerce Street. Guests can sip their drink in the lounge area — outfitted with modish sectional sofas — or hit the floor.
In the the front of the building, just to the left of the main entrance, is a posh liquor bar called The Times Bar. An artist was just putting the finishing touches on the new lettering in the window…
Here’s “your truly” reflected in a mirror in the main entrance, where exotic woods echo the Art Deco motif of the entire building. The attention to detail in this restoration is incredible.
“This beautiful building for years was underutilized and dark most of the time,” said Doug Ellington.
“We want to turn the lights on and see people enjoying it,” added Kenneth Ellington. “That’s what it was built for. This building used to be a gathering place for many in the community,” he said. “The stories longtime residents tell of downtown is that it was vibrant in the ’20s and ’30s. Now it’s vibrant again, and we hope to add to that vibrancy — and be a part of it — once again.”