Rich in History
Panini's on the Waterfront began in a small storefront in the Cross Creek Shopping Plaza, where we built a loyal following with our great food. When it came time to expand to a full service venue, what better place then on the beautiful Beaufort Waterfront! The historic bank building at 926 Bay Street had become available, and would prove to be a perfect location. After 11 Years, we are still here, going strong and loving it!
We often get asked, what is the history of the building? Well, by it's architecture, you can tell it was a classy lady when built. From 1919 when built to 1926, it was home to the Bank of Beaufort. Unfortunately, once the bank closed, and the building languished for a time. In 1947, enterprising brothers Earl and Ira Smith gave the Grand Lady a new look and life as The Breeze Movie Theater. The rear of the building was extended out over the water to accommodate the new venture. The Breeze delighted families in Beaufort with motion pictures up until 1979, when it was shuttered. In the mid 1980's, Joe Mix purchased the building and began restoration. With determination and vision, the building was brought back to life. The grand columns at the entrance were rescued, two of them from a swamp, and two being used as bulkheads. After completion, the building was for a time a Men's clothing store, and then became The Bank Bar & Grill, which enjoyed many years of success. In 2004, Panini's was relocated to this current location, where we having enjoyed continued success.
"What a wonderful old bar" is often heard when guests enter the front door. Unfortunately, we do not really have a complete history of it's origins and locations. It was purchased at auction in Savannah, with no history given. When we renovated the entire inside of the restaurant four years ago, we have removed all the equipment inside the bar to look for any identifying marks, but unfortunately there where none. We were lucky enough to have a guest who is a professor do a little research on the style of the bar. They felt that it was probably 1800's, German style in origin, and was probably originally located in the upper mid west, possibly in a small hotel or bar. How it ended up in Savannah is a mystery, but it was our good fortune!
Lucille Hasell Culp Collection, Courtesy of Beaufort County Library (SC)