Lowell, Massachusetts’ Four Sister’s Owl Diner gets make-over

The Owl Diner, circa mid-1980’s photo copyright Larry Cultrera

I got an email from Bob Higgins recently. He wanted to let me know that something was happening with the Four Sister’s Owl Diner in Lowell, Mass. He asked if I knew anything about it and that he thought he heard that Richard Gutman had possibly been consulting with the owners of the diner.

Well I informed Bob that I did know what was happening but I was waiting to actually post the news on the Diner Hotline blog. You see Dick Gutman called me about 2 and a half months ago and asked if I wanted to collaborate with him on something. Then he told me of the consulting job he was doing with the Shanahan’s on the Owl Diner.

For some background, the Owl Diner is Worcester Lunch Car No. 759. It was built in 1940 as the Monarch Diner for the DeCola Brothers of Waltham, Mass. and was the flagship in a chain of diners the family had in Massachusetts and New Hampshire. It operated in Waltham until 1950 or 51 when it was replaced by a large stainless steel Jerry O’Mahony diner.

The original was sold and moved to Lowell, The porcelain panels that said “Monarch” were removed at this time and replaced with panels that said “The Owl”. The original typeface that Worcester used was their “Italicized” font that they developed for these streamlined models. (See Monarch photo below)

Monarch Diner photo courtesy Louis DeCola

Curiously, when Worcester ordered the new panels for the left side of the front door, somehow the new name was done in their more familiar Old English style font, leaving the panels on the left side with the original Italicized font. I suspect that the words “The Owl” fit that side better in the Old English font than if they had used the Italicized one.

Well, to get back to what currently was happening with the diner, Dick told me that he was designing a larger vestibule for the diner that was actually covering more of the front wall. This new vestibule was to be large enough to act as a waiting area for customers. This meant that most of the old porcelain panels were to be removed. Dick’s design called for the new vestibule to have a monitor roof, mimicking the original diner roof.

Photo showing current construction for new vestibule at Owl Diner

Photo showing current construction for new vestibule at Owl Diner

He also needed to design new porcelain for the whole front of the diner including the new vestibule. He had contacted Vicki Corum Helms of Cherokee Porcelain Enamel Corporation down in Knoxville, Tennessee. He had worked with her quite a few times in the past on other diner projects. Vicki gave him new basic quotes for the price per square foot for porcelain covered steel panels and also informed him that the company now was not accepting hand drawn mechanical drawings for the panel artwork. They now utilized vector-based drawings (like from Adobe Illustrator). That is why Dick contacted me. He knew that I was fairly proficient with Adobe Illustrator and asked if I could convert his drawings to ones that Cherokee could use.

Starting from the left front corner of the diner, there will be a new corner panel, a new “Booth Service” panel and a new “blank” panel with a notch for the new steps into the vestibule. From there we will go to the front of the vestibule and the panels on the right side. Below you can see the mock-ups for the main panels that I created.

These panels will be on the new vestibule

 Because the  new vestibule was taking up more space, to fit the new panels that said “Diner”, the “Booth Service” panel ,on the extreme right side was sacrificed.

The panels on the right side beyond the vestibule

I finished the drawings on Thanksgiving weekend and Dick sent jpeg’s to the contractor to verify dimensions. He got back to Dick with one change on Thursday and I implemented the change and sent the final artwork to Cherokee on Friday night. Now that the drawings are sent I could finally let my faithful readers know what I’ve been working on in my spare time. I cannot wait to see the diner with the new panels from artwork created on this very computer! Hopefully these will appear in the next couple of months.