The Transylvania Times -

Picturing The Past: Royal Café Has Become Lily T Clothing Company


January 7, 2019

The young men pictured are identified as Walter Whitmire, Luther Cooper and Tommy Whitmire. However, Tommy Whitmire was only 9-years-old when his brother, Walter, died in 1919. It is more likely the young man on the right is Roland or Rush Whitmire. They would have been 17 and 15 years of age, respectively, in 1915. (Courtesy photo)

This week's featured photograph dates to the second decade of the 20th century and was likely taken around 1915. Although the image does not include enough of the building to definitively identify where it was located, the architectural details around the door and windows are very similar to the section of the McMinn building, where the Lily T Clothing Company is today.

A search of the Sylvan Valley News revealed the first mention of the Royal Café in a paragraph on May 24, 1912. However, the business actually got its start 17 months earlier when Spurgeon Osborne opened the Royal Lunch Room in the McMinn building on West Main Street. The menu included oysters, fish, steak with eggs, and ham with eggs. The café, which catered to those attending court or conducting business downtown, also carried groceries, fruits, confections, tobacco and cigars.

In 1912, H.C. Aiken and J.H. Pickelsimer opened the Royal Café in the old Pickelsimer Drug storeroom and bought out Osborne. Oysters and fish continued to be the specialty of the café, but they also prepared lunches for picnics and driving parties. In addition, they sold ice cream, fountain drinks, green groceries and fruit. Aiken managed the business.

After a year-and-a-half, Paul Smathers purchased the café. He continued to operate it for a couple of years, but by the summer of 1915 F.N. Nicholson was running the café. No further mention of the café was found after an April 21, 1916, announce-ment that Nicholson would manage it under the name of Nicholson & Brother.

The Sylvan Valley News from 1903 through 1916 is available and searchable at It is a great resource to learn all about Brevard and Transylvania County during this time period.

(Photographs and information for this column are provided by the Rowell Bosse North Carolina Room, Transylvania County Library. Visit the N.C. Room during regular library hours (Monday-Friday) to learn more about our history and see additional photographs. For more information, comments or suggestions, contact Marcy at or (828) 884-1820.)


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