Waffle House marker hits the spot

Waffle House #1 in Avondale is honored by Georgia's first historic marker dedicated to a breakfast restaurant

The Atlanta-based Waffle House restaurant chain, which day and night keeps the home fries browning at 1,600 locations around the country, has long been an American icon.

This Saturday it enters history.

Outside Waffle House #1, in Avondale, the Georgia Historical Society will unveil the state’s first historic marker dedicated to a breakfast restaurant.

In silver-painted letters it will read “At this location, on Labor Day 1955, Avondale Estates neighbors Joe Rogers, Sr., and Tom Forkner founded the first Waffle House restaurant.” It goes on to explain: “The restaurant’s focus on fast-food speed and round-the-clock service reflected mid-century societal shifts toward an automobile culture.”

Credit: Phil Skinner

Credit: Phil Skinner

In the world of historic markers, most of which are dedicated to war and politics, a marker inspired by hash browns and quick breads is a departure. “It’s an example of what we have tried to do when we were given the marker program,” said W. Todd Groce, president of the Savannah-based Georgia Historical Society, which took over the program from the state in 1998. “We have tried to diversify topics, to tell Georgia history in all its breadth.”

Credit: Phil Skinner

Credit: Phil Skinner

Made of cast aluminum and limited to 100 words, a historic marker costs $5,000 to install, half of which is provided by the GHS and the other half by the applicant — in this case, Waffle House. (The original Waffle House #1 has become a museum devoted to the restaurant chain, open by appointment and on select Saturdays.)

Groce said that GHS is committed to expanding the topics covered by historic markers. Among its first efforts since 1998 were tablets that commemorated golfer Bobby Jones and the nuclear-powered merchant ship the NS Savannah.

“We’ve tried to breathe life into [the program] and reposition the marker program so it is telling the whole story of Georgia,” said Groce.

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