Skee’s Diner has a new future


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.

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