Diner/Roadside Art Exhibit at Culinary Arts Museum


Back around 1986, right after I was featured in a Boston Globe article on Diners written by Nathan Cobb, I was contacted by Becky Haletky. Becky introduced herself as an artist who enjoyed painting diners and other roadside related subjects. She was living with her family in Rockland, Mass. at the time (before moving to her current home in Pembroke). She informed me that her work was diversified and that she painted other subjects as well as the roadside ones.

We became friends and even went on small roadtrips in the area so she could take some new photos for future paintings. She also arranged for me to do a Diner History slide presentation in 1987 for the Rockland Art Association. In fact as I recall, Dick Gutman came along to that show and I introduced him to Becky.

Since then I have managed to get to a few shows at various galleries in the area that featured Becky’s work. Well I am happy to report that Becky has a new show of her art at The Culinary Arts Museum at Johnson & Wales Univeristy’s Harbor Campus in Providence, RI  (Dick Gutman is the director of the Museum).

The exhibit is entitled “Time to Eat” diners and other eateries in watercolor by Becky Haletky. It runs from January 26 through June 5, 2009.

I RSVP’d yesterday for Denise and I to attend the Opening Reception on February 7th.

Here are 3 examples of Becky’s work…

Chadwick Square Diner, Worcester, Mass.

Miss Worcester Diner, Worcester, Mass.

Shawmut Diner, New Bedford, Mass.

Check out Becky’s website at  http://www.artbecko.com/

The Culinary Arts Museum is located at 315 Harborside Boulevard, Providence, RI 02905

More scratch-built Diner models

When I posted the text and photos of the two scratch-built diner models I worked on (and finally finished) last month, I got an interesting comment from Philadelphia resident Phil Juska. Phil enjoyed seeing the images of my efforts and informed me he had recently completed a similar project. In fact, he had built a 1:24 scale model (1/2 inch for every foot) of the Miss Worcester Diner.

Exterior view from left end of Phil’s model

Starting in October and finishing before Christmas, Phil did an amazing job of capturing the essence of the diner both inside and out. Using a combination of polystyrene and bass wood, Phil’s first effort in scratch-built modelling is simply tremendous!

Interior of model with walls and roof removed for viewing

Front view exterior of model

Interior of model with walls and roof removed for viewing

Interior of model

Looking through left side window into the diner

Interior of model with walls and roof removed for viewing

One more interior shot

In Phil’s own words I will let him describe his creation…

Basswood of various thickness for the walls, roof, tables, booths, doors, windows (which go up and down), counter, cutting board (basswood strips glued together like a real cutting board), refrigerator, overhang and backbar.  Styrene for the grill, deep fryer, soda dispenser, coffee urn, and the sinks under the counter (not visible in the photos).  My main tool was an exacto knife with several different blades and lots of sandpapering.

The model is 14.5 inches long, not counting the two sets of steps, and 7 inches wide.  The roof is removable and the whole body (4 walls) can be lifted off the foundation.  The interior back wall is permanent.  The electric strip for the overhead interior lights is mounted on the outside of the back wall so it can still be removed.

The lower half of the interior wall, the floor and the front of the counter are pre-fab styrene sheets (over basswood) scored to look like tile.  For the walls and counter, I cut the styrene in strips for painting and then reassembled it on the walls.  Taping and painting did not give a precise enough line.

For the floor I painted the whole thing brown and then, using an exacto, scraped away the paint to make the white tiles.  Not exactly like the real thing, but close.  For the marble counter top, I printed a marble print sheet from the internet, decoupaged it to the counter and varnished it.

The stools are a finishing washer for the base, a scrapbook spacer for the post (these are threaded at one end so could be screwed right into the tile/basswood floor), two stainless washers and a wooden button, with the holes filled with wood filler, for the seat.

I purchased the coffee mugs, the cake, and the two food platters two in front of two of the diners.  I made everything else, including the figures.  One of the most enjoyable parts was creating the “scene” and making it as realistic as possible.

The diner was a Christmas gift for my brother and his wife.  He was a student at Holy Cross in the 60’s and the Miss Woo was one of his favorite places.  That’s them, circa 1965, in the booth.  He’s having his usual cheeseburger and his (future) wife is having her usual cup of tea.

The cook is reading the Boston Globe.  For my own amusement, I made the other two figures the “midnight watchman” and the “rotund waitress” from the classic Harry Chapin song, A Better Place To Be, one of my favorites.  I’m also a fan of photorealist painting so the little groupings of ketchup, mustard, sugars (a single silver sequin made a perfect top), salt, pepper and nabkin dispensers are my own tribute to the diner paintings of Ralph Goings.

Except for the Kennedy pic, which I added for 60’s flavor, the framed pictures on the overhang are exactly what’s in the diner photos I have, as are some of the signs (e.g hamburgers, hotdogs) on the end walls.

I asked Phil what motivated and inspired him to create this model and how he found Diner Hotline. He answered…

I’m from Philadelphia, PA.  I’ve always been a fan of diners…visiting a number in the Philadelphia area like Bob’s, Daddypop’s, Frazer Diner, Olga’s, Melrose and others with a nephew….and always thought the unique architecture would make a good subject for a model…and had often thought of doing the Miss Worcester because of the connection with my brother.

Not being an experienced modeler, I kept my eyes open for a kit I could use as the basic structure and then modify (kit bashing?).  Unable to find one, I just decided to try to figure it out myself.  I figured out the concept of “scale” and what scale I wanted to use, found some pictures and a floorplan online and I was on my way.

I have Richard Gutman’s Worcester Lunch Car Company book and used several pics from it for research in building my model. Many hours of research, experimentation and trial and error later, I had the Miss Worcester.  I really enjoyed the challenge, creativity and problem solving aspect of building a model from scratch…starting with nothing and ending up with a finished piece.

In researching my next piece I came across Ted Boardman’s pictures and his website.  I sent him a few pictures and he sent me the link to your article on scratch built diner models on Diner Hotline.

After Phil sent the photos of his model I decided to let my readers see these as well as my original first effort in scratch-built modelling. As I said in my earlier post showing the models I built of the Star Lite Diner and Cape Ann (Portside) Diner, these were smaller versions based on a large model I built in 1995 of the Star Lite Diner.
The newer ones were just exterior versions with attached buildings. The first model I built was much larger (approx. 30 inches long) and had a complete interior. This model was only the diner on a display base and no attached building or foundation, etc.
In my research for this model, I only had one exterior photo to go by. There was no interior layout drawing at my disposal at the time, only my memories of  the inside and my own knowledge of Worcester Lunch Cars. It was fortunate that the Cape Ann Diner still exists as it had a very similar interior with as I later learned some small changes.
Exterior front view of large Star Lite Diner model
Exterior front left view of large Star Lite Diner model
Exterior front right view of large Star Lite Diner model
Interior view of large Star Lite Diner model
Interior view of large Star Lite Diner model
Interior view of large Star Lite Diner model
Interior view of large Star Lite Diner model
Interior view of large Star Lite Diner model

Update on Cheyenne Diner

Market Diner (now Cheyenne Diner) photo circa 1983
by Larry Cultrera

Well it looks like someone has stepped up to the plate and saved NYC’s Cheyenne Diner from demolition. This time it looks like it isn’t staying in New York. Read yesterdays latest bulletin from the Save the Cheyenne Diner Committee….


New Lease On Life In Birmingham, AL!

NEW YORK, NY (Jan 14, 2009) – NYC’s historic Cheyenne Diner (411 9th Ave & 33rd St), “the diner of popular demand” was for sale once again, but as of today, Michael Perlman a.k.a “Diner-Man” (http://www.observer.com/2008/diner-man-rescue) brokered a deal between Joel Owens of Birmingham, AL and property owner George Papas for an undisclosed amount.

According to Perlman, the diner was slated for demolition within the next few weeks, if a buyer willing to transport the diner wasn’t located. Joel Owens, head of NAIC, an investment group, became the fortunate candidate, and has announced plans to restore the Cheyenne to its 1940s glory with potential additions including a classic car museum & special events center. Owens states “This is a dream come true, especially in a state that has no historic freestanding diners.” Alabama Tourism Director, Lee Sentell, states “This has the potential to be a great Alabama destination.”

Perlman received alternate proposals from potential buyers from Upstate NY, PA, MI, TX, & UT, but it boiled down to first-come, first-serve, when faced with a 6-week deadline to clear the property. Perlman states “It is of the utmost importance to acquire the necessary permits in a timely manner, to ensure preservation via transport for this historic gem, and we urge the NYC Dept of Buildings to expedite the permits process.”

Since the Cheyenne’s dimensions are 15 ft x 96 ft (2,000 sq ft), the diner will be transported via flatbed in 2 sections to Birmingham, with the expertise of Rigger Mel Brandt of M&M Rigging, who transported 50 diners countrywide (including NY’s historic Moondance Diner to LaBarge, WY in Aug 2007).

Please direct inquiries to historicdiner@hotmail.com or pattikm@hotmail.com or Patti Miller Media Relations at (205) 587-5068, and “Diner-Man” Michael Perlman for NYC inquiries at unlockthevault@hotmail.com & (917) 446-7775.

NYC’s Cheyenne Diner again in danger

Market Diner (now Cheyenne Diner) photo circa 1983
by Larry Cultrera

Back in April, 2008 New York City’s Cheyenne Diner was closed and threatened with demolition when the property the diner was located on was reportedly being redeveloped for condos. Michael Perlman, a young crusader who was in the forefront in saving NYC’s Moondance Diner when that was also in the way of “progress” got the word out through various media including this blog about the Cheyenne’s plight and imminent destruction.

With the ensuing media blitz came a saviour out of Brooklyn, one Mike O’Connell who was going to move the diner to the Red Hook section of Brooklyn. Well it has been reported recently that fate has dealt a blow to these plans as O’Connell, in trying to get the necessary permits to move the large diner from Manhattan to Brooklyn has hit a major roadblock literally.

The City of New York will not allow the diner to be moved across the Manhattan Bridge leaving O’Connell a very expensive (and basically cost prohibitive) alternative in getting the diner to its proposed new home. This alternative included transporting the diner to the East River docks and using a crane to place it on a barge to carry it across the river then utilizing another crane to lift it from the barge on the Brooklyn side and transporting it to Red Hook.

O’Connell has decided not to continue and now the diner is back in the sights of the wrecking ball or bulldozer. Michael Perlman has sent out a notice to try and save the diner again. Below is the text from that announcement….

Committee To Save The Cheyenne Diner 

Must Be Transported ASAP or Will Be Demolished!

NEW YORK, NY (Jan 8, 2009) – NYC’s historic Cheyenne Diner (411 9th Ave & 33rd St), “the diner of popular demand,” is now for sale at a reasonable but negotiable price (once again), on the condition that it be transported off the property ASAP, or the diner will be demolished within the next few weeks, if a deal is not brokered.

Michael Perlman a.k.a “Diner Man”
(http://www.observer.com/2008/diner-man-rescue) is ready to broker another deal, & this time it is the Cheyenne Diner all over again. As of this week, Cheyenne Diner owner Mike O’Connell’s plans have been abandoned since the diner wouldn’t fit across the Manhattan Bridge via a flatbed, and the next option, transporting it by barge, proved 3 times as costly as traditional figures a year ago.

The best route towards the diner’s future salvation is the George Washington Bridge, amongst a few others, but the GW route didn’t connect to Red Hook, Brooklyn. It was difficult to access Red Hook due to its location. Perlman has already received notification from potential buyers from NY, MI, AL, & UT.

While the Cheyenne can potentially land a good home out of state, many patrons are praying that a NY-based buyer will contact the Committee at unlockthevault@hotmail.com, so it can ideally remain closer to its roots than the Moondance Diner in WY. All information will then be relayed to Mike O’Connell and George Papas. Rigging costs will vary upon where the diner is transported to and the route. The diner can be transported in 2 sections. According to PropertyShark.com, the Cheyenne Diner’s building dimensions are 15 ft x 96 ft (2,000 sq ft), Lot dimensions 19.75 ft x 100 ft (1,975 sq ft).

Backtracking… As Chairman of Committee To Save The Cheyenne Diner, Perlman presented a proposal to property owner George Papas (owner of nearby Skylight Diner & developer for Cheyenne property) on closing day, Sunday, April 6th 2008, and convinced him to work together. A 9-story condo is slated to rise on premise, which marked the end of the diner’s 68 year-run for its Manhattan chapter. A total of 24 prospective buyers came forward within a record-breaking 2 weeks after its Apr 2008 closure (and more continue to date). It came down to first-come, first-serve.

Mike O’Connell of O’C Construction bought the historic Cheyenne Diner structure, and once considered it his dream to transport, restore, and reopen the diner in Red Hook, Brooklyn. HISTORY: The Cheyenne Diner is a highlight in terms of its diverse patronage including celebs i.e. Jerry Lewis & David Letterman, and since it’s the LAST streamlined railway car-inspired diner in Mid-Manhattan, and a scarcity borough-wide. It was pre-assembled by Paramount Diners in 1940, and known as the Market Diner through ’86 after the popular chain.

It retains a majority of its original &/or distinctive elements. The streamlined façade features vertical and horizontal stainless steel securing bowed colorful enamel panels, wrap-around windows, a curved entryway with glass block, & a reverse channel illuminated neon sign. The interior features a streamlined barrel roof, counter & stools, & Indian tribal coins. The Cheyenne was recently granted 1st prize on NYC-Architecture.com’s “Top 10 NY Diners/Restaurants.”

Perlman explains: “Diners are amongst the ‘ultimate public institutions’ which harbor countless memories and bridge the generations. During the 30’s – 60’s eras, freestanding diners numerously dotted NYC’s 5 boroughs, and brought together individuals of various occupations in a cozy & striking ambiance. Today, they are becoming an endangered species at an alarming rate, and their loss is often most heartfelt. It is essential to preserve & reuse all remaining classic freestanding diners.

Despite time constraints, we are committed to doing all we can for a noble cause.” The Committee’s consensus is that “A steady market for such nostalgic gems, coupled by the fact that they were manufactured to move; can ensure a victory for the Cheyenne Diner.”

Cheyenne Diner in operation in May 2007 & April 6, 2008 closing day photos, vintage photos, & photos during Mega Moves documentary filming, Courtesy of Preservationist Michael Perlman: http://www.flickr.com/gp/8095451@N08/7t0113

1941 photo (pan & zoom 3rd in sequence), courtesy of NYPL: http://digitalgallery.nypl.org/nypldigital/dgkeysearchdetail.cfm?trg=1&strucID=401863&imageID=712065F&word=9th%20avenue%2033rd%20street&s=1&notword=&d=&c=&f=&lWord=&lField=&sScope=&s



NYC Diner Preservation Record

– Sam Chinita housed in freestanding diner (8th Ave & 19th St), demolished 2000

– River Diner (11th Ave & 37th St), demolished Mar 2004

– Lunchbox Diner (357 West St), restored in 2002, but closed & remains abandoned

– Munson Diner (11th Ave & 49th St) transported to the Catskills in 2005

– Moondance Diner (80 6th Ave) transported to LaBarge, WY in Aug 2007 & reopens in 2009 (Michael Perlman founded the Committee To Save The Moondance Diner in spring 2007, which made him an official NYC preservationist after working with Extell Development, and granting it a new lease on life in LaBarge, WY)

– Staten Island’s Victory Diner transported in Aug 2007 to SI’s Midland Beach Promenade & reopens in 2009

– Some icons holding onto their own:

NYC’s Empire Diner (10th Ave & 22nd St)

jet-age Market Diner (11th Ave & 43rd St) reopened early Dec 2008

Air Line Diner/currently Jackson Hole (Astoria Blvd & 70th St)

Square Diner (33 Leonard St near Varick St & W Broadway).

Contact: Michael Perlman, Chairman & Preservationist
Committee To Save The Cheyenne Diner
(917) 446-7775