Walter Whetstone doesn’t remember me. He’s had two strokes since our last substantial conversation. I first wrote about Walter and his masterpiece of Outsider Art called the Whetstonian four years ago. In the next couple years, I visited him maybe a dozen times.
He’d called his half-block bricolage on Jefferson Street from State to Union Streets in Northern LaVilla the Whetstonian, because, as he explained, “If Smithson can have his Smithsonian, then Whetstone can have the Whetstonian.”
On one visit, Walter wore a “Whetstone Chocolates” ball cap. He said he’d visited the factory in St. Augustine and told them, “You’re Whetstone Chocolate, and I’m Chocolate Whetstone.”
Dorothy Whetstone does most of the talking these days. Dot and Walter sit next to each other at the large oak table inside the Whetstonian. She speaks fondly of how they first met at the Jefferson Street Pool just up the street 59 years ago. Walter wore a fedora and a multicolored suit. Dot wore a two-piece bathing suit with a big bow on the back and high heels. After they started dating, he’d pick her up at her place in rural Dinsmore-Pickett, almost as far north as Callahan, in his shiny green Buick, which Dot could hear from the highway.
As Dot speaks, Walter mostly stares at the table. The Whetstones now want to sell much of Walter’s lifelong collections. There’s talk of their son turning the space into a restaurant. Wayne Wood, founder of Riverside Avondale Preservation, and Maura Wolfson-Foster, a close family friend and photographer who published a photography collection called The Whetstonian in 2012, say they’d love to see the Whetstonian preserved.