The Atlas Café, located at Atlas Chambers, 27 Adelaide Street in Brisbane’s CBD, was operated by Greek migrant George Sklavos, starting some time during the mid-1920s. Sklavos is first listed as the proprietor of the Atlas Cafe in the 1927-1928 edition of the Queensland Post Office Directory.
Previously, Sklavos had operated the American Bar in Fortitude Valley for approximately 18 years. George was born in the Kytherian village of Mitata in Greece in 1882. He travelled to Australia in 1900, working in New South Wales before moving to Queensland.
On the morning of 29 November 1948, a fire was discovered at the Atlas Cafe. The fire brigade was summoned and the blaze was brought under control. Brisbane’s Telegraph newspaper (29/11/1948) reported that a gas stove, an electric stove and fryer were destroyed with the ceiling and a table scorched.
In her 2019 book, Brisbane’s Greek cafes : a million malted milks, Toni Risson vividly describes two photographs of the Atlas Cafe which are now part of State Library’s collection – “They reveal leadlight panels, potted plants, fans, coat hooks at every table, an Art Deco carpet runner, white tablecloths and polished silverware. A bank of Hamilton Beach milkshake machines has pride of place on the milk bar and a neon sign on the façade indicates popular items”.
George Sklavos died on 1 March 1949. His funeral took place at the Greek Orthodox Church of St George in Charlotte Street and he was interred at Toowong Cemetery. Prior to his death he lived at ‘Megaron’, 320 Bowen Terrace, New Farm. According to Toni Risson, half of George’s estate was donated to restoring the village church in Mitata, Greece.
State Library’s latest exhibition, Meet me at the Paragon explores how the creation of American-style cafes enabled Greek migrants of the early to mid-1900s to carve out a new life in a foreign land. The exhibition runs from 27 September 2019 until 15 March 2020.
Meet me at the Paragon digital story
Myles Sinnamon – Engagement Officer, State Library of Queensland