Like shucking an oyster, wrecking crews with Chandler Demolition have pretty much scraped away the interior of the old Anderton's East restaurant at 1901 Madison. Crye-Leike Realtors, which owns the property, have announced they may convert the building into retail space or use it for their own Midtown offices.
The restaurant closed in late 2005, and the roof collapsed during a storm in February. The demolition crews have preserved the elaborate terra-cotta facade -- at least for now -- with rows of steels beams bolted to the walls and attached to the concrete foundation inside.
For almost half a century, Anderton's was one of our city's most popular restaurants.
In the late 1940s, Herbert Anderton opened an oyster bar downtown at 151 Madison that was a huge success. In fact, when the place celebrated its tenth anniversary, Anderson had his employees bake a 400-pound birthday cake and serve it to all his satisfied customers. In that first decade, he claimed he had served more than six million oysters, and who would argue? The man loved oysters so much that he built a house on East Parkway with an oyster-shaped swimming pool.
In 1956, he decided to expand, purchasing the old Gilmore Seafood Restaurant at 1901 Madison and renaming it Anderton's East. An old Press-Scimitar story said the new establishment had "an air of quiet elegance" but that's not how most people would probably describe it. Instead, patrons remember the bizarre pirate-ship bar (complete with cannons), organic pink ceiling "blobs" that floated over diners in the main dining room, a blue glass panel etched with sea creatures, and -- for a while -- even a waterfall outside the front door. Oh, and all this inside a bright-blue/green terra-cotta facade.
It seemed like it might last forever, but all the Anderton's restaurants (there was a third one in Whitehaven) closed. When the Madison location shut its doors in 2005, everyone thought they had seen the last of the most unusual restaurant interiors in town.
But much of Anderton's funky interior has been moved across town, to a new bar on Broad called The Cove. Owner Jim Marshall had spent most of his life in the design business when he decided he wanted to open a bar. He found the location on Broad, and then went to an auction of Andertons furnishings. "I had no intention of buying anything," he told Memphis magazine a few months ago. "I just popped in out of curiosity."
Well, he popped back out as the owner of Anderton's distinctive bar, as well as lighting fixtures, murals, and other pieces of the old place. He moved everything to The Cove, and says, "When I got the bar in, it looked as though it had been made for this place."
And yes, they serve plenty of oysters there.
Meanwhile, the Anderton's site has been declared a "derelict and dangerous building" by the city's Division of Fire Services. Will the Madison Avenue landmark remain standing much longer? Stay tuned.
-- Michael Finger