Skee’s Diner has a new future

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Todays Hartford Courant has an article about Skee’s Diner (589 Main Street, Torrington, CT), a 1920’s vintage Jerry O’Mahony diner. This diner is currently the only one in the state of Connecticut that is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It has been closed for several years, but things are looking up. Here is the text of the article..

Welcome News For Skee’s

Tiny, beloved Skee’s Diner, an aging landmark in western Connecticut that could have been lost to deterioration and neglect, will get a new life. The Northwest Connecticut Chamber of Commerce, supported by Torrington officials and a number of other groups, is buying the former eatery. It will be moved about a mile to a commuter parking lot just off Route 8 in Torrington, where it will be restored and used as a welcome and information center, said JoAnn Ryan, president and CEO of the chamber.Instead of laying into a plate of hash browns at the tan marble counter, customers will tap on computers to find information about the state’s Northwest Corner

Ms. Ryan said the diner will be fully restored but will not serve food. She said there’s no need, with several other restaurants and coffee shops at the new location.

This is a fine reuse of an interesting historic building. Built in 1926, Skee’s is typical of the barrel-roof diners common in New England in the early 20th century. It could accommodate 17 customers on round swivel stools at the counter, and features such details as wood cabinetry with brass fittings, green and yellow one-inch ceramic floor tile, an enameled metal ceiling and frosted windows.

Such diners were built to be mobile, and that was the case with Skee’s. It opened for business in Old Lyme before being moved to Torrington in 1944. It’s been closed for several years. The chamber received a $100,000 matching grant award from the state Commission on Culture and Tourism’s Endangered Building Fund for the purchase.

The new use of Skee’s is the way all communities should think about older buildings. Too often the first thought is to tear them down, and so many have been demolished. But if the structures are architecturally or culturally significant or interesting, if they are a recognizable part of a city’s heritage, then Plan A should be to find another use. The default position ought to be saving the building.

The Northwest Chamber and its many allies took this approach with Skee’s, and will have one of the most distinctive welcome centers in the country.

Reprieve for Farmington Diner?

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A January 18th newspaper artricle from the Lewiston, Maine Sun-Times mentioned that the Farmington Diner (Farmington, Maine) whose sight is slated to be developed into a new Rite Aid Pharmacy may be saved by the former owners. here is the text of this article….

Ex-owners offer to move diner, store it at home

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Friday, January 18, 2008

FARMINGTON – A last-ditch effort to keep the Farmington Diner from demolition is being undertaken.

Former owners Rose and Mike Grimanis have agreed to purchase the diner and move it to their home on Prescott Street to save it, owner Russell Wood said Thursday.

But, the purchase is dependent on the town’s Planning Board and a contractor’s willingness to give them extra time since the board won’t meet until Feb. 11. The date is eight days beyond the 30 days requested by Wood in his sales contract with Rite Aid. The sale took place on Jan. 3.

“The contractor is willing to give us more time so I’ll be filing papers for the Planning Board,” Rose Grimanis said Thursday. “We’re hoping someone else will come and take it. This is a last-ditch attempt to make sure the building doesn’t get destroyed.”

The couple will need a flood plain review by the Planning Board in order to store it at their home on Prescott Street, Code Enforcement Officer Stephen Kaiser said. The length of time it will be stored and neighbors’ concerns, he expects, will also be addressed.

While the couple have retired, she said, they are considering eventually moving it to another location to set up and lease, but with the present economy they are weighing all factors.

“I feel like a lot of mom and pop operations are giving way to big business. We’re losing a lot of our cultural heritage, and this community icon may go,” she said, explaining why she would consider undertaking the move. The couple retired from the diner after they sold it to Wood. Michael was there for 23 years, and she spent 20 years working with him, she said.

“This was what it would take. Someone who loved the diner and would put up the money to keep it from being destroyed,” Wood said. He talked with Grimanis on Wednesday and was told they were going to try to buy it in order to preserve it, he said.

If this doesn’t work then he’s going to have to let it go and it will be demolished, he said.

Another interested party called the Code Enforcement Office this week, Kaiser said, with a unique idea to move, refurbish and operate the diner. But that person would also need to go before the Planning Board for a site review, he said. Kaiser could not disclose any more information until an application has been filed with the town.

Rite-Aid developer Bruce Carrier was willing Thursday to give the extra time for the meeting to be held. After talking with Kaiser, he said he understood there is another interested party and feels the issue can be worked out.

The metal-sheathed building was constructed to resemble a railroad car and served as the Lewiston Diner before being bought and moved to the Intervale in Farmington in the 1960s by Hubert Stewart, Melvin Bard of Farmington has said. Stewart moved his hamburger stand to the back of the site, made a kitchen out of it and put the diner up front, he said.

It’s about 12 feet wide and 40 feet long.

One option that had been discussed was having it go to the American Diner Museum in Rhode Island.

 The Farmington is a unique diner that looks to be a severely alterred Mountain View diner. A clue is the fact that it has Mountain View’s trademark “cow-catcher” corners on the front. But everything else inside and out does not look like anything that came out of the Mountain View factory.