Little Tavern- The early years

The earliest years of Little Tavern, Harry F. Duncan’s chain of hamburger stands in St. Louis Missouri are still somewhat of a mystery. In an interview given by Duncan in the 1970s, 50 years after the fact, he says one sentence about operating five locations of baby beef restaurants, but it’s unclear as to whether he meant the name of the restaurant was “Baby Beef Burgers” or whether he was describing his product as small using the word “baby”. Either way, this one sentence has been re-quoted for decades like a game of telephone, with each subsequent news story or book altering it slightly. In my extensive research, I haven’t found anything concrete on the 1925-1927 St. Louis years, no photos, no street addresses. Little Tavern company documents from the 1930s make no mention of the former chain. I’m hopeful some information may exist at the Andrew County Museum in Missouri.

Little Tavern No. 1
510 West Broadway Louisville, KY
Opened March 24, 1927, closed c. 1950
The building was demolished by 1955. The Al J. Schneider Co building, later known as the Bank of Louisville building, was built on the site in 1960.
Company photo from 1930s Little Tavern publication, courtesy Larry Collier.

Little Tavern No. 2
414 E Broadway, Louisville, KY
Opened October 8, 1927, closed 1941
Bought by James and Donna Spellman,who operated it as the Little Manor System Restaurant for 32 years.
Caufield & Shook photo, commissioned by Harry F. Duncan of Little Tavern in 1928. ULPA CS 097019 Courtesy the collection of the University of Louisville.

Little Tavern No. 3
652 S 18th St, Louisville, KY
Opened Dec 22, 1927, closed 1941
Operated in 1942 by former Little Tavern employee Leonard Higdon as Little Castle Hamburgers No. 2
Operated in 1946 by Charles R. Melven as the Castle Inn no. 1
Enlarged in 1958, operated by Mary H. Sines as Mary’s Grill
Operated in 1972 as Bar B Q King
Operated in 1980 by James Johnson as The Country Pit
Left image, Company photo from 1930s Little Tavern publication, courtesy Larry Collier. Right Image, Caufield & Shook photo, commissioned by Harry F. Duncan of Little Tavern in 1928. ULPA CS 097020 Courtesy the collection of the University of Louisville.

Little Tavern No. 4
2120 Bardstown Road, Louisville, KY
Opened March 24, 1928, closed August 1935
Purchased by Herman A. Parris, a former employee of Little Tavern, in 1935 and reopened as White House Shop no. 1. Parris would go on to open White House Shops restaurants at 333 W Oak, 2525 Grinstead Dr., 2810 Taylorsville Road, and 2292 Bardstown Road (a former Little Mansion System location), with an office at the rear of 2112 Bardstown Road.
This may be the only former Little Tavern location in Louisville still standing, currently operating as an Insurance office, directly to the left of Great Flood Brewing.
Image: Google Maps, 2016

Little Tavern No. 5
417 W. Chestnut, Louisville, KY
Opened May 17, 1928, closed 1943-1944
Bought in 1944 by William Adkins
Operating as Eddie L. Rivers Restaurant in 1946
1951 George Karras, owner
1952 Operating as the Dagwood Grill
1957 Operating as Dandee Hamburgers No. 2 (there was another Dandee Hamburgers at 454 S. 5th)
1965 Operating as Pattie’s Grill
Left Image: from news story on Marshall DeVore, who later managed the Little Tavern in Laurel, Maryland. Right Image: Company photo from 1930s Little Tavern publication, courtesy Larry Collier.

Little Tavern No. 6
129 S. 2nd St., Louisville, KY
Opened May 15, 1930, Closed 1932
1933- Liberty Barber Shop
1934 – L.K. Diefenbach Restaurant
1937 – L.K. Diefenbach Restaurant
1941- Snack Sandwich Shop
1946 – Robert O’Banion Lunch
1952- Kidd’s Grill
1958 – Chuck’s Quick Lunch
Caufield & Shook photo, commissioned by Harry F. Duncan of Little Tavern in 1930. ULPA CS 111433. Courtesy the collection of the University of Louisville.

Little Tavern
1141 Dixie Highway, Louisville, KY
Found in directories starting in the mid 1950s, It’s unclear whether this was associated with the hamburger chain, but it’s more likely this was a bar

Little Tavern and White Castle both opened their first locations in Louisville in 1927 and maintained a similar presence in those early years. Within a few years, the area was flooded by other hamburger restaurants. Interestingly, while White Castle has called all competitors imitators since the early days, many of these Louisville hamburger stands of the 1930s riffed on the Little Tavern image as much as on that of White Castle.

White Castle
no. 1 729 W Broadway. Opened August 1927, remodeled 1937
no. 2 434  W. Liberty . Opened October 1927, remodeled 1931
no. 3 803 E. Broadway.  Opened November 29 1927
no. 4 100 W. Broadway. Opened 1928
no. 5 565 S. 3rd St. Opened March 13 1928
no. 6 566 S. 5th St. Opened May 11, 1928. Closed March 1933. Later operated as the White Swan System. Still standing, as Pesto’s Italian Restaurant
no. 7 105 E. Market.  Opened July 17 1928. Still a White Castle
no. 8 Woodbourne and Bardstown Road. Opened June 1935. Moved in 1945 to become no. 11
no. 9 3809 Frankfort Ave. St. Matthews, KY. Opened May 27, 1939
no. 10  793 Eastern Pkwy. Opened July 12, 1939. Still a White Castle
no. 12  1450 Bardstown Rd.  Opened June 21, 1956.
no. 19 Opened August 13, 1978

Little Castle -Founded by former Little Tavern employee Leonard Higdon
No. 1 116 S. 26th, Louisville, KY. (operating as Nic-Nac no. 1 in 1940. Nic Nac No. 2 was at 2824 W. Broadway)Location burned in 1945 and was rebuilt. Operated through until at least 1957. In 1964, operating as Ray’s No. 3. In 1975 operating as Beef Burger Restaurant. In 1977, operating as Ann’s Grill, in 1978 as Mom’s Restaurant
No. 2 652 S 18th St, Louisville, KY (formerly Little Tavern no. 3) see above for further names
No. 3 315 S. 26th St. Louisville KY, opened 1942. (Originally the Snappy Snack no. 4. Other Snappy Shack locations at Bardstown Rd. and Roanoke (no. 1), Hill and 16th (no. 2) and 2512 W. Broadway (no.3) Operating in 1946 as the Castle Inn. Later operated as the White Way System no. 2

Little Chef Sandwich Shop 3283 Taylor Blvd, Louisville, KY
Sued in 1953 by Frisch’s Big boy over their use of the term “Big Boy” to describe their hamburgers

Little Cottage Hamburger Shop/ Little Cottage System/ Little Cottage Lunch No. 1 1707 Mellwood Ave, Louisville, KY (1942)
No. 2 1227 S. 28th (1951)
No. 3 3031 Taylor Blvd (1952)

Little Manor System 414 E. Broadway, Louisville KY (in former Little Tavern no. 2) Operated c. 1942-c.1974

Little Mansion System Inc. (originally Lincoln Log System, changed name in 1939) Filed injunction in 1940 against Dipsy Doodle Snack bar after planning to open three restaurants also using the Dipsy Doodle name. 1941- secretery John S. Petot. Liquedated 1942
Locations at 900 W. Main St., 2292 Bardstown Road, 3626 Lexington, 1822 S. 3rd

Little Palace Hamburgers 1224 W. Walnut, Louisville KY
Little Shanty System 604 W. Walnut, Louisville, KY

White Comet 420 S. 3rd, Louisville KY
White Crescent System 1043 E Main, 1057 E Main, 1707 Mellwood Ave.
White Cottage Inn 1353 S. Shelby Louisville, KY
White Cottage 4044 Preston Highway Louisville, KY
White Horse 515 W. Broadway, Louisville, KY

White House Shops,founded 1935 by Herman A. Parris, Location no. 1 2120 Bardstown Rd., formerly Little Tavern No. 4, Location no. 2 333 W. Oak Location no. 3 2525 Grinstead Dr., No. 4 2810 Taylorsville Rd., 2292 Bardstown Rd. (formerly a White Mansion System location)
Renamed Hap’s White House Drive In Restaurants in the 1950s. Location no. 1 expanded next door in 1950s, called Hap’s Big Burger Drive In. That location later became the Twig and Leaf, still operating today.

White Hut 617 S 2nd Louisville KY
White Manor 1707 Mellwood Ave.
White Palace 223 W Liberty Louisville KY
White Spot System Hamburgers 1501-1/2 W. Market 228 N. Main
White Swan 566 S. 5th Louisville, KY
White Tavern 216-1/2 South Limestone, Lexington, KY, 113 North Limestone Street, Lexington, KY, 265 East Main Street, Lexington, KY, 518 West Main Street, Lexington, KY, 327 West Main Street Danville, KY, 308 W Washington Street, Charleston, WV, 1215 Washington Street, Charleston, WV
White Way System 1101 W. Broadway, 315 S. 26th


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