Speedway in search of buyer to restore 1930’s vintage diner

Barr’s Diner matchbook cover from original location

Back in my early days of documenting diners, my parents Sam and Millie (who have since passed on) had taken a ride from our home in Medford, Mass. into New Hampshire. It was the summer of 1981 and I believe they were heading up towards the Lakes Region, Laconia to be exact. Instead of taking the highway my dad must have taken the old roads, Rtes. 28 and 3 north, (gee, I wonder where I got that habit from?). On their return they told me they saw 2 old diners on a stretch of Route 106 northeast of Concord in Loudon.

On the southern end of Concord, NH, Rte. 106 heads north from Rte. 3 and is a direct route into Laconia.  The first diner they saw was located next door to what was then known as Briar Motor Sport Park, a small racetrack known for holding the oldest motorcycle race in the country, The Loudon Classic. There was also another diner about 2 miles north on the same side of the road.

The above photos are copyright 1981 by Larry Cultrera

Interior of Barr’s during transition to Security office circa 1984
copyright, Larry Cultrera

So, right after they got back and told me of the diner sitings, I made plans to take a little excursion myself. I’m pretty sure a guy I worked with at the time named Dave Brownell came with me on the ride (I wonder  what happened to him?). We came to the first diner, the former Barr’s Diner. I knew it’s name as it had porcelain panels with the name baked into them, (actually only the side panels showed the Barr’s name). On the front panels the name was painted out showing just the word “Diner”. As reported by my dad the other diner was just past the racetrack on the same side. This one was a large white (with red striping and no lettering) Worcester streamliner that had been started to be setup at this site but never finished.

A few years later I would be more intimately familiar with this diner which originally operated in Laconia as Earl’s Diner. Around 1983, the Henry Ford Museum had purchased the former Hudson Diner (originally Lamy’s Diner) another Worcester streamliner and moved it from Hudson, Mass. to Dearborn, Mich. Their plan was to restore this diner and eventually place it in an exhibit. Dick Gutman was consulting with the Museum on this restoration and during a phone call asked me if I had any suggestions about other streamliners that might be available for salvaging parts for Lamy’s Diner. I reminded him of the one in Loudon.

Within a few months he had located the owner and was able to purchase the salvage rights for the Museum. The summer of 1984 rolled around and Dick Gutman along with Blake Hayes and other representatives from the Henry Ford Museum (and myself) descended upon sleepy Loudon and removed booths, sundry equipment and marble countertop from Earl’s Diner for the restoration of Lamy’s.

To get back to Barr’s Diner, I have since found out that it was a 1930’s vintage Jerry O’Mahony “Monarch” style diner which was originally located on Granite Avenue in East Milton, Mass., just south of Boston. From what I understand, it was displaced when East Milton Square was rearranged by the construction of the Southeast Expressway in the late 1950’s. I assume it was moved to New Hampshire at this point and from the looks of it, it operated at the new location as a diner because it had a kitchen building added to the back.

Eventually little Briar Motor Sport Park was enlarged to become New Hampshire International Speedway (currently known as New Hampshire Motor Speedway) and the closed Barr’s Diner became part of it. It was turned into an office for Track Security but remained mostly intact albeit with stools and booths/tables removed. Ironically, I recall that Jack Mullahy and Paula Frechette bought the old booths out of Barr’s to add to their Sidetrack Cafe, a 1920’s Worcester Lunch Car actually located a couple of blocks from where the former Lamy’s Diner operated as the Hudson Diner in Hudson, Mass. They had added a sort of front porch to their small diner to add seating and the booths came in handy.

The porcelain panels were eventually removed from Barr’s and it was covered by wood panelling. It continued to be used until the last couple of months as the Track Security office. I went by it on Memorial Day Weekend and saw a couple of large dumpsters next to it. This caught my eye and then I noticed that the “kitchen building” behind the diner was torn down. I photographed the place to document it again just in case it too was to disappear (my initial thoughts). I then rethought about it and figured that if the diner was to become history as well, that would have already been torn down with the kitchen.

The above photos shot on Memorial Day Weekend, 2008
the interior (which does not look too different from my 1984 shot)
shows that there is still hope of bringing it back.

To find out more as to what is happening with the old diner I got in touch with Mark Furlone, the head of Track Security at the Speedway and he wrote back…
“My understanding is that as of now the plan is to load it onto flatbed trailers and possibly sell it or at least store it for awhile.  Our person in charge of parking, Gil Rogers, is more familiar with the future plans”.

When I emailed Gil Rogers he responded with a little more info… “New Hampshire Motor Speedway would like to see the diner be restored in some fashion”. Also “FYI,  the diner will be replaced by a Traffic Office for the Speedway”. If anyone wishes to pursue the matter please feel free to make a proposal to Mr. John Zudell, VP of Operations and Development at the Speedway. He can be reached at jzudell@nhms.com

6 thoughts on “Speedway in search of buyer to restore 1930’s vintage diner

  1. I have the outside porcelain on steel panels for Barrs Diner. I am going to put them up for sale on Ebay, if anyone is interested.

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