Last original Dunkin Donuts sign threatened


An article from the Boston Sunday Globe City section (1-6-08) by Robert Preer had some bad news for Classic Roadside enthusiasts. The last original Dunkin Donuts sign may become history. Ironically it is one of the most photographed signs (check out flickr). My old friend and colleague Arthur Krim of the Society for Commercial Archeology has been attempting to get Dunkin Donuts corporate offices to commit to saving this landmark sign which dates to 1957. Dave Waller was also mentioned.

Here is the text from that article…

Neon loses out to rust, dooming landmark sign

There were no birthday cakes or special crullers when the oversized neon Dunkin’ Donuts sign in Brighton turned 50 in 2007. Indeed, the rusted landmark and last original Dunkin’ Donuts sign standing anywhere appears on the verge of passing quietly into oblivion sometime soon.

“The sign is coming down,” says Andrew Mastrangelo, communications manager for Canton-based Dunkin’ Brands Inc.

Believed to have been erected in 1957, the rusting and unlighted sign next to a 24-hour Dunkin’ Donuts towers over the intersection of Market and North Beacon streets. Mastrangelo said a new sign will replace the old one, which has “deteriorated to an unacceptable condition.”

The impending demise of the old sign troubles some preservationists and admirers of mid-20th century roadside architecture.

“It’s sad news in the world of Boston landmarks,” said Arthur Krim, a geographer who led the campaign to save the Citgo sign in Kenmore Square in the 1980s. “It’s not unexpected, but I’m disappointed that after a half-century of public service, this logo won’t be around for another half-century.”

David Waller of Malden, a neon sign collector, said he hopes Dunkin’ Donuts will find a way to preserve this piece of history. “Dunkin’ Donuts signifies the end of mom and pop doughnut shops. To find something left over from that era is very important,” he said.

Mastrangelo indicated that the local franchisee will work with the community and city officials on plans for a replacement sign. “With all our restaurants, our intent is to always work to preserve the spirit and architectural essence of the neighborhood,” Mastrangelo said.

The stretch of North Beacon Street near the Massachusetts Turnpike is a busy strip with a mix of business uses. The road has a couple of other survivors of early commercial automobile culture, including the 1952 stainless steel Pig’n Whistle diner and Twin Donuts, with its well-preserved neon sign.

The lettering on the old Dunkin’ Donuts sign is significantly different from a modern Dunkin’ sign, although the color scheme is similar. “The pink neon gives it a candy-colored aura that matches the flavors of the doughnuts themselves,” said Krim.

A professor at the Boston Architectural Center, Krim has researched the history of Dunkin’ Donuts signs and is convinced the one in Brighton dates to 1957, when the company started franchising. The sign is classic ’50s graphic style, according to Krim.

“What appeals to me is that the apostrophe in Dunkin’ is a piece of neon unto itself.” Modern Dunkin’ Donuts signs are made of backlit plexiglass with fluorescent tubes.

Waller said he owns the only other intact original neon Dunkin’ Donuts sign, which he purchased from a collector and restored. That sign came from the Dunkin’ Donuts store on Southern Artery in Quincy, according to Waller. That was the very first Dunkin’ Donuts, opened by company founder William Rosenberg in 1950.

Waller said he might try to acquire the Brighton sign, also. “I’m interested in saving it one way or the other. I don’t need another one. I just don’t want to see it go in a dumpster,” he said. Waller said he hopes that the Dunkin’ Brands corporation will help the franchisee restore the sign.

Now the world’s largest coffee and baked goods chain, Dunkin’ Donuts was acquired by a British corporation in 1990 and later sold to a consortium of private equity firms.

Small collections of artifacts from the company’s early years are preserved in exhibits at Dunkin’ Donuts headquarters and at the Quincy Historical Society. Edward F. Fitzgerald, the society’s director, said he wishes he had more items from Dunkin’ Donuts, but has been unable to acquire any from the company. “I’m not sure they know what they have,” he said.

The neon sign, however, would probably be too big for the society’s museum, Fitzgerald said.

Robert Preer can be reached at

Culinary Archives & Museum mentioned in Boston Globe Travel Section

Sundays Boston Globe Travel Section had a nice article on the Johnson & Wales University Culinary Archives & Museum (January 6, 2008). The piece was written by by Globe Correspondent Tim Lehnert and it mentions the museum’s collection as well as the centerpiece, the landmark exhibit “Diners: Still Cookin’ in the 21st Century”. The exhibit which was curated by Richard J.S. Gutman (now the Museum’s Director) the premier historian who authored the 1979 book, American Diner (Harper & Rowe) and the revised book, American Diner Then & Now (Johns Hopkins University Press) as well as the “Images of America” book, Worcester Lunch Car Company (Arcadia Publishing) See my weblog for a link to the museum’s website. The Website page looks like this…


Here is the text to the Globe article

Preserving fairs to fruit crates to diners

PROVIDENCE – I entered the Culinary Archives & Museum with trepidation, fearing endless exhibits of soup tureens and salad forks, broken up by instructional videos on braising and refrigeration. My worries, thankfully, proved groundless. The museum, housed at Johnson & Wales University in Providence, does focus on food, but in its broadest sense: how its preparation, marketing, and consumption are part of American culture and history.

The museum’s exhibits examine both the business and the technology of food preparation, with side trips into how food and cooking have figured into daily life for regular Americans as well as presidents.

The centerpiece is a spacious exhibit on the country’s original fast-food restaurant, the diner, which had its origins in Providence in 1872 as a horse-drawn lunch wagon. Diners have become an enduring icon of 20th-century American life, but ultimately, says Richard Gutman, director and curator of the museum, “They are places where you feel comfortable.”

“Diners: Still Cookin’ in the 21st Century” traces the evolution of their design and function, complete with Formica lunch counter. It also houses the actual Ever Ready Diner, which operated in Providence into the 1980s, as well as a re-creation of an early Maine diner.

Gutman, who has written several books on diners, says that much attention has been lavished on classic diner design (the neon, Naugahyde booths, and Art Deco influences), but one of the most interesting things about them is how they have been able to adapt and survive. Many have been rejuvenated with new menus offering multicultural fare such as quesadillas and fajitas to supplement the blue-plate specials of older eras.

Another exhibit is devoted to taverns, inns, and bars. It includes a partial replica of a saloon, and a reconstituted Stoddard, N.H., tavern dating to 1833. It features a bar, a fold-down bed (for the stage coach driver), and other original elements including boot boxes and a locking cabinet in which the liquor was kept. It’s a far cry from today’s martini bar.

The technology used in food preparation has also changed radically over time, and this development is charted in “Stoves and Ranges: From the Open Hearth to the Microwave.” Not surprisingly, the exhibit features many cast-iron stoves, including a Civil War-era model adorned with patriotic eagles and stars and stripes. A piece that seems nearly as ancient is an early microwave: a 120-pound, 3 1/2-foot-tall 1960s Radarange Mark IV.

Among the exhibits focusing on culture is the “Szathmary Presidential Collection,” which includes White House menus, cookbooks, and dishes. One of the highlights is food-related White House correspondence: A 1906 letter to a fishing club proprietor from President Theodore Roosevelt begins, “That is a beautiful salmon,” and promises that it will be served to the French ambassador. A 1908 note from President Taft reads, “Thank you for sending me the box of cake, which Mrs. Taft and I will have much pleasure in using.”

A recent addition to the permanent collection is “Country Fair to Culinary Olympics,” which focuses on the country fair and its union of agriculture, animal husbandry, amusement, and food competition. The exhibit links yesteryear’s pie contests to today’s international cooking extravaganzas. “It’s not just a nostalgia trip,” says Gutman of the playful exhibit. “It’s a place where the visitor can see where we’ve come from and where we’re going.”

A temporary exhibit scheduled to open Jan. 15 and to run until May 2009 is “Dripping with Color: The Art of the Fruit Crate Label.” Many are familiar with the stunning graphics that adorned the sides of California fruit crates, but Gutman says the exhibit goes beyond the labels to look at the industry as a whole. “Without the fruit, without the growers, without the lithographers and the people building the crates, you have nothing,” he says.

The museum’s food tent is big, and even includes displays of work executed by students at its host university, one of the nation’s top culinary schools. You needn’t be a foodie to find something to chew on, and the only thing missing is the aroma of cooking itself.

If You Go

Culinary Archives & Museum at Johnson & Wales University
315 Harborside Boulevard
Tuesday-Sunday 10 a.m.-5 p.m.
The museum follows the university’s calendar for holiday closings. Adults $7, seniors $6, college students with valid ID $3, children ages 5-18 $2, under 5 free.Directions: The museum is about 50 miles, or an hour, from Boston. Take Interstate 95 to exit 18 and follow signs to Allens Avenue. Turn right onto Allens Avenue and go straight for 1 mile (street name changes to Narragansett Boulevard). Turn left onto Harborside Boulevard. The museum is in the first building on the left.


Vintage Roadside, an interesting on-line gift shop

I just found out through my exploration of Flickr about a website that should interest anyone with a passion for vintage graphics and other stuff dealing with the American roadside. It is called Vintage Roadside (not to be confused with Roadside Magazine) and it is the brainchild of Jeff Kunkle and his wife Kelly Burg. Jeff has been contributing to Flickr photos and other images from his collection which caught my attention. He in turn found out about my weblog and contact was made.

Ironically in the last 2 days Bill Griffith has used some pieces from Jeff’s collection for the “Zippy” comic strip ( ). These are no ordinary pieces but the fibreglass statues of the whole “Burger family” from A&W Rootbeer fame. (“In 1963, A&W® restaurants introduced The Burger Family®, which included a Mama Burger®, Papa Burger®, Teen Burger® and Baby Burger®,” each burger was made in different ways, such as The Teen Burger included cheese, two slices of bacon, lettuce, tomato and salad dressing).

These statues similar to “Muffler Man” and “Bob’s Big Boy” statues are quite large and were used at various A&W stands over the years. Jeff & Kelly rounded up “Mama Burger”, “Teen Burger” and “Baby Burger” from a location in Sacremento, California last October and got the final one “Papa Burger” from Oregon not too long after that in November. You can read about it through his website and blog.

The website is

and the blog is

Jeff & Kelly’s collection of fibreglass statues reminds me that they are not alone, John Baeder has a “Big Boy” statue in his yard as well!

Victoria’s Diner mentioned in Boston Phoenix review

Victoria’s Diner of Boston was mentioned in a review that tells of the recent ownership change. I have been going to this diner since it was brand-new. A 1965 vintage Swingle diner that has gone through some changes since it was delivered, has also gone through 2 ownership changes in the last 3 or 4 years after the Georgenes family sold it. Actually Jay Haj still owns the property that he bought from the Georgenes’ but has sold the business. I hear the new owners are going to put back the missing section of counter w/stools. Here is the link


Happy New Year


I just want to wish everyone who reads this a Happy New Year and assure people that I will try to add more frequent posts to this blog in the up coming weeks. Things have been pretty quiet around the holidays but I did manage to get to one of my favorite diners on Saturday the 29th of December. I drove out to Acton, Mass. and picked up my old roadtrip buddy Steve Repucci and we headed out to Leominster for breakfast at Tim’s Diner. Tim’s is a unique, one-of-a-kind Silk City Diner.

It is probably the smallest Silk City in existance. The interior is as close to original as you could get, but the exterior was damaged in 2 car accidents. The first destroyed the factory-built entryway as well as the front wall to the right of the entry. The second accident hit the same section of wall to the right of the entry and pushed the newer brick facade in slightly. This damage is hidden partially on the outside by newspaper machines but if you look closely at the building you will see this. It would probably cost quite a few bucks to repair but it is repairable. I tried to get Steve Harwin of Diversified Diners to look into this for Tim, at least for an estimate but never heard anything. We can always hope.