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Dwarf Restaurant and Tate Motel – Really Found

Thursday 10th August 2006 - 5:59:00 PM

I posted this topic earlier and it turns out I was wrong. Mark said he thought the Dwarf was at the corner of Merchants and Clinton Highway. That seemed wrong to me because that building looks nothing like the postcard. A reader on the Swank Forums did the research and it turns out that is one of the locations. It has been very heavily renovated!

Dwarf at Merchants


Dwarf 1 now

Here is the building now. 

The poster also gave me an address for the other Dwarf Restaurant on Clinton Highway and a look at Google maps and I knew it was correct. I also recalled the buildings, as I pass the daily and it was all coming together. The address I had on the postcard was just plain wrong and sent me on a wild goose chase.


Here you see on the left, the Dwarf building and right of center, the Tate Motel office building and the cleared lot where the motel rooms were. Luckily, Google maps uses older images so this is pre-junk yard.

Dwarf Tate

Here is the best image showing the two buildings in their prime. This is in the mid-1950s and it appears the Tate did not have the office building yet. You gotta love the sign!

SignWhy a dwarf? It predates that Travelocity thing by a few decades. 

dwarf tate 2Here is a later image of the Tate Motel and it looks like the restaurant is no longer the Dwarf. Also note the office building is there.

TateAnd here is a postcard of just the Tate Motel with no office. Look at the size of the trees to see this is an early image.

Tate linen

Here is a very early linen card. The roof sign attracted barn-stormers.


“Chicken in the basket” is a take off of the popular “Chicken in the Rough.”

Dwarf and Tate now

Here it is today. The Dwarf and the Tate. I didn’t bother (or dare) poke around for remnants of the past. Not much to find I am sure and they would not welcome me.

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  1. johnny dollar

    swanky – i really dig your urban archaeology efforts. are you a member of society for commercial archaeology? you should be, it is totally in line with what you look for. their site is

    Comment left on August 11, 2006 @ 12:55 pm

  2. Swanky

    Cool. I emailed them for some info. My goal is to turn my collections into websites. I started collecting Knoxville postcards and now I mainly search Ebay for new places and images. I am trying to document these things while they are still here and get a bit of history. It is a huge task. Just in little ol’ Knoxville there are maybe 1000 postcards to document. I’d love to have the time and resources to branch out to other cities. It’s just too much work when I am nowhere near done with this town!

    Comment left on August 11, 2006 @ 1:20 pm

  3. Ricky

    Exquisite. Have not seen these images in years and what a refreshing visit to recall these buildlings from my childhood (and I am not THAT old)!! Excellent and exciting info. I was at a postcard show last year and saw the lovely old Country Squire Motel….should be shot for not buying it but oh well there was that one, probably others. ….excellent signage and the overall was done in tasteful and highly unusual for the time stark black and stark white. Very suave very tasteful for at the time rural field-laden Kingston Pike. :) Great work Swanky!

    Comment left on August 21, 2006 @ 11:39 pm

  4. Charlene Sparks Gambill

    I am one of the daughters of John B and Marguerite Sparks, owners of the Dwarf Restaurants. I would be pleased to communicate with anyone interested in these family restaurants of days gone by. I have many fond memories of my fellow workers, customers and family members there. Please let me know anything you’d like to learn more about. Sadly my father passed away in 1988. My mother and her 4 daughters are all still in Tennessee, most of them around Maryville, TN, home of one of the several Dwarf restaurants our father and mother owned and operated around the Knoxville area from the 50’s and into the early 80’s.

    Comment left on October 10, 2006 @ 9:18 pm

  5. Swanky

    The first thing I want to know is, why the name? Did it have a relation to Snow White or what?

    Comment left on October 10, 2006 @ 9:39 pm

  6. Charlene Gambill

    Daddy had purchased a restaurant in Oak Ridge and had a contest offering a monetary prize to the person who’s name he chose for the name of the restaurant. The exterior of the restaurant was white. The person winning the contest wanted the restaurant to be called The Snow White because the place was white and sparkly clean. After the Snow White Daddy purchased other places and started calling them the Dwarf restaurants. He once told me he had hoped to have 7 Dwarf restaurants. He actually had 5; the one on Western Ave, 2 on Clinton Highway, one in Maryville, TN, and one in Gatlinburg. He had 3 other restaurants —-but they were not called the Dwarf. There was an Orange Julius in Fountain City, a restaurnat on Kingston Pike and another place on 411 hwy in Maryville. Daddy was renting these business and the contract would not let him change the names. Daddy never served any alcohol in his places of business. They were “family” restaurants offering home cooked meats and veggies and desserts. The restauarants were known for Daddy’s wonderful biscuits and chicken and dumplings. Many of the vegetables served were grown on our farm in Powell, TN and later on the farm in Friendsville, TN. He had customers from all over the US that returned annually when on vacation. Daddy always was hands on and made it a point to work his way around the dining rooms and talk to customers and learn who they were and where they were from. His customers loved him and his cooking. Most of the staff at the restaurants were family and friends. Many of my friends worked and paid their way in college with wages earned at the Dwarfs, including my husband-a UT graduate.

    Comment left on October 12, 2006 @ 12:00 am

  7. Leah

    My dad worked at the Snow White in Oak Ridge as a grill cook. He went on to obtain his PhD and become a published author many times over, but he always remembered those days at the Snow White most fondly, I believe. Anyone remember a cook named Doyle?? :)

    Comment left on March 16, 2009 @ 10:43 am

  8. henry

    We were returning to Ohio from Florida around 1966.
    We stopped at the Dwarf and found it an unforgettable experience.

    Comment left on September 30, 2013 @ 10:10 am

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