Threatened with Demolition, Toledo, Ohio White Tower to be Saved!

We’ve been watching the developments with the on-going story about the fate of one of the last White Towers in downtown Toledo, Ohio. Although some previous new reports said this building was built for another small hamburger restaurant outlet prior to White Tower taking it over, according to Diner Hotline reader John Shoaf, who has been in touch with the people who were past owner/operators (see his comments), they said this was built to be White Tower’s first outlet in that city. In the last few months there has been news that the building which has been closed for a while, was being offered for sale for the amount of $1.00. The catch is the building had to be moved so the site could be redeveloped.

It was announced today that someone finally stepped forward to save the beleaguered structure from the wrecking ball. Here is the story from “The Blade” dated  September 18th.

White Tower photo copyright The Blade 

Article published Thursday, September 18, 2008

Developer buys diner for return to downtown oasis;
joint to flip sites for new operation

That neon-lit era of 24-hour diners and the 3 a.m. ButterBURGER could soon return to downtown Toledo.

The White Tower diner at Jefferson Avenue and 10th Street, the first and last official outpost in the state of the restaurant chain, has a new owner who plans to dismantle, rebuild, and reopen it as an all-hours burger joint under the White Tower name.

Bruce Rumpf, owner of Rumpf Development Corp. and the Job 1 USA staffing agency, bought the closed 1929 diner for $1 from the YWCA of Greater Toledo in a sale announced yesterday. Mr. Rumpf anticipates burgers flipping as early as next spring at Monroe and Ontario streets on what’s presently a parking lot across from a Shell station. The project represents a $400,000 to $500,00 investment for him, Mr. Rumpf said.

“It was called the ‘Oasis in the Night’ because it was open 24/7, and that’s something that we will re-create — open 24/7 — so that there’s always a place to go to in downtown Toledo,” Mr. Rumpf said. The goal is to refurbish the 600-square-foot building — stools, countertops, and all the rest — to look as it did during White Tower’s heyday in the first half of 20th century. This specific diner closed in 2004 after 75 years of nearly continuous service. The restaurant was the first White Tower to open in Ohio and ultimately became one of more than a dozen Toledo locations.

Earlier this year, the YWCA began offering the historic diner for $1 to anyone willing to pay to move it from its present location, which is slated to become part of the YWCA’s planned $10.1 million expansion project of new apartments for battered women and low-income mothers and children. Lisa McDuffie, who is the YWCA president and chief executive officer, said she received about 30 inquiries for the White Tower from as far away as Georgia after an article appeared this summer in The Blade.

Ultimately, there were two serious offers: Mr. Rumpf’s and one from the American Sign Museum in Cincinnati, which sought to install portions of the diner inside its museum building, Ms. McDuffie said. “It’s important to keep something that is Toledo in Toledo,” she said. There were about 230 White Towers at the chain’s height of popularity in the 1950s. The restaurants in Ohio were concentrated in Toledo, Dayton, and Cleveland.

While the newer and larger White Tower family-dining restaurant at 1515 West Sylvania Ave. in West Toledo still serves some classic White Tower menu items, it is no longer considered part of the original chain after it changed hands in 2004. Mr. Rumpf, who used to frequent the Jefferson and 10th White Tower, hopes the newly restored diner also will become a Toledo tourist attraction. He said he plans to serve original-recipe White Tower menu items like the ButterBURGER, with its simultaneously famous and infamous butter-soaked buns.

“Being in the downtown myself for 34 years, there probably wasn’t a day that went by that I didn’t have a Double ButterBURGER or something from there,” he said. Local architect Bob Seyfang and builder Jim Moline have signed on for the reconstruction project. The dismantling is to begin and finish within 30 days, with the building’s components put in storage over the winter. “I’m proud of our history in this city and I think we need to celebrate more of the history, and the way we can do it is to make sure we don’t tear down what that history has been,” Mr. Rumpf said.

7 thoughts on “Threatened with Demolition, Toledo, Ohio White Tower to be Saved!

  1. this is the ORIGINAL white tower in toledo
    a previous TOLEDO report said it was something BEFORE that
    but THE OFFICIAL report by the OHIO WHITE TOWER CHAIN indicates that it was originally built by white tower
    it was originally WHITE BRICK and later enlarged when the PORCELAIN CLADDING was installed

    I visited with the original owners of white tower chain in OHIO a few years ago
    when I secured my white tower from NJ
    (they still live just south of toledo)
    there were about 10 in toledo…all were demolished but the original one above

    possible TWO were
    actually diners built by VALENTINE like mine
    one went by way of urban renewal
    the other demolished when WT built one of the newer Colonial Type WT’s

    If you want an original BUTTERBURGER the COLONIAL TYPE WT still in TOLEDO serves it AS ORIGINAL

    I have TRACKED all the VALENTINES known
    I believe MINE is the only WT VALENTINE left in existance

    see article

    Transplant craves old diner



    The Harwan Theater is coming down, but the adjacent DiNic’s Roast Beef, a former White Tower restaurant, is moving on.

    To West Virginia.

    A self-described “dinerholic” who grew up in Collingswood is paying to have the.

    landmark little eatery picked up and trucked about 300 miles from the Black Horse Pike to his home in Morgantown, W.Va. The Mount Ephraim site is being cleared for construction of a Walgreens.

    “I always wanted a diner,” John Shoaf, a 64-year-old retired teacher and respected preservationist, said Thursday. “Most people pretty much think it’s crazy. My better half thinks I’m out of my mind.”

    A 1960 Collingswood High School graduate, Shoaf is hardly unique in his love of diners, which have inspired numerous scholarly and pop-culture books, as well as fan sites on the Web. The Mount Ephraim White Tower meets the definition of a diner despite its minuscule size because it’s a manufactured structure and was shipped to its site (in 1946 or thereabouts, Shoaf believes).

    Accommodating the removal rather than the demolition of a building “is a little unusual, in our experience, unless the building is historic,” said Jake Todd, senior project manager for the Bannett Group, the Cherry Hill firm constructing the Walgreens.

    “It could be the only one left in existence,” said Shoaf, adding the Mount Ephraim White Tower was one of 15 manufactured by the Arthur Valentine company of Wichita, Kan.

    Paul M. Hirshorn, who co-authored White Tower — the definitive (and only) book on the subject — said the Valentine buildings were designed to the specifications of White Tower’s in-house architect, Charles Johnson.

    With its gleaming porcelain exterior, big windows and brightly lit tower, Johnson’s iconic design “was able to communicate its message . . . in a sophisticated and successful way” to passing motorists, said Hirshorn.

    Nostalgia is clearly a part of the affection for these buildings, said John S. Flack, a Marlton resident who maintains a Web site devoted to the defunct Burger Chef chain.

    “People like to go back to their childhoods,” he observed.

    Indeed, as Shoaf shared via e-mail, “when I was younger, my parents told me I could go anywhere for my birthday, and I always (went to) White Tower (on) Admiral Wilson Boulevard . . . for a sack of hamburgers.” So Shoaf is willing to spend his hard-earned money — Shoaf won’t say how much — to bring the one-time home of that taste to West Virginia.

    He’ll place the old White Tower on land he owns overlooking I-79.

    And someday, Shoaf said, he’d like to fire up that grill again.

  2. SORRY… 3 other WHITE TOWER buildings are still there in TOLEDO in the downtown area under DISQIUSE as other businesses
    ONE of THOSE started out as another former business converted by WT

  3. John, thanks for the update. I can only go by what I had read previously from other reports. It sounds like you did your homework which I am not surprised at. How is your Valentine-built White Tower coming along, any work done yet?

  4. I have 13 in good condition White Tower coffee cups, with logo and place of manufacte on bottom. Does anyone know where I might offer these for sale or if indeed they are salable.

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