A sheet metal likeness of a coffeepot sits atop a defunct diner in the rural Orangeburg County town of Cordova. The former restaurant conspicuously marked by this sculpture was called – what else? – the Coffee Pot Diner and served hungry travelers along US 301 from around 1950 until 1979. While the diner is no longer in business, its larger-than-life coffee pot, standing at six feet and weighing 250 pounds, still attracts photographers and those in search of roadside curiosities.
The small, white block building sits on 2.6 acres of land once owned by Thomas Woodrow Gray. Gray, an amateur boxer and one of 13 children, lived in a white house near the restaurant’s future location.
In 1950, Gray sold his land to a British couple who had moved south from Niagra Falls, New York. The couple – the late Emily and Frederick Griffin – initially moved to Florida from New York, but shortly after settling there, they decided to move slightly north and open a tearoom.
The Griffins then purchased a restaurant in Jesup, Georgia, but the sale collapsed before they could take ownership. Figuring they had nothing to lose, legend holds that Frederick blindly pointed to a map and declared wherever his finger landed would be their next home. His finger landed in Cordova, South Carolina.
Once the Griffins relocated to the area, which was surrounded mostly by farmland, they thought it wise to forgo their plans for a tearoom in favor of a diner, which they suspected would be more appealing to their hard-working clientele. The Griffins were right, and their prime location on Highway 301 served the business well until Interstate 95 rerouted customers.
The Griffins had no children and wanted to offer the Gray family the opportunity to purchase the land after their deaths. Thomas Gray’s son, Thomas “Buck” Gray, bought the land in 2008. While he has no plans to reopen the restaurant, he does maintain its iconic coffee pot.
In fact, after the giant coffee pot was knocked from its perch during a storm in January 2013, Gray wasted no time repairing and replacing the local landmark.
Marilyn Daniels says
Hello! Emily’s niece has submitted her Aunt Em’s Pecan Pie recipe for our Church Cookbook fundraiser and included a story about the history of “The Coffee Pot”. Would you please allow me to use a picture of this building to go along with the recipe? If you send me your email I would be happy to share the recipe with you. With appreciation for your consideration. Marilyn Daniels, Wesley United Church, Welland, Ontario, Canada.
Hello Marilyn! Sounds like a really great project, we are sure that the photograph would not mind but permission would have to come directly from her. Her email address is TrevaHamlin@msn.com, hope this helps and good luck on everything. Thanks!
Marcia Hughes says
I pass by this little piece of history frequently, as I pick my grands up from school. We are residents of Cordova, enjoy seeing it. I will admit, I never went there, mainly because i didn’t drive and as a young girl, even though i lived right around the corner from it, I just never thought of going there. I am going to stop there one day soon and peer into the windows, just to see it, and remember when it was in her hay day!
Steve Thompson says
My mom and dad owned a drycleaners in Bamberg and would stop by The Coffee Pot every morning for coffee and to chat with the Griffins. We lived in Cordova during that time. I still think about that every time I ride past this historic landmark.
Jerry Levy says
I was a freshman in college in Washington, D.C. in 1976 and drove to Florida during spring break, we stopped for breakfast here. I remember a lot of traffic and I read all the roadside billboards going down towards Georgia. It was quite the adventure for me as an 18 year old, sure would like to do that drive again.
Lee Fagan says
The Griffins did have one child, my grandfather Roland Ross, who passed away prior to them. My great grandparents were wonderful people and loved South Carolina and this area of Highway 301. My sister, cousins, and I spent many summers visiting my great grandparents in the summers of our youth. We began each day with an early morning visit to the Coffee Pot. My great grandfather and his father built the restaurant, surrounding houses, shuffleboard courts, windmills, and other little projects with their own hands. Many thanks to Buck Gray for maintaining not only the building, but the Coffee Pot itself.
Thank you for sharing!
M. Foell says
Uncle Fred and Aunt Em built the house they lived in adjacent to “The Coffee Pot” Restaurant as well. Fred researched the best way to build a home that would be storm tolerant. Seems to have worked … other than the pot falling.