Recently I got an email from Elaine Monast from South Attleboro, Mass. She found Diner Hotline and decided to contact me. One of the subjects she brought up in her email was Wightman’s Diner. She wondered why I did not have anything on this diner in the blog. I told her I did not have much but I could still do some sort of post on it as I thought it was a worthy subject!
Wightman’s Diner was touted as “The Largest Diner in the World” and at the time it was operating, this may have been true. The very first image I ever saw of Wightman’s Diner was in Richard J.S. Gutman’s book, American Diner (Harper & Row, 1979) and this photo really made an impression on me.
Located on U.S. Route 1 in South Attleboro, Mass., Wightman’s started out as a lunch wagon in 1923 and by the late 1920’s owner Elmer C. Wightman had upgraded to the diner you see above. In fact that diner consisted of 2 fairly large Jerry O’Mahony barrel-roofed diners flanking 1 really large O’Mahony car. This was huge for the time!
Detail image from the Providence Sunday Journal, October 9, 1938
The diner kept getting larger and by the late 1930’s it featured a large room on the extreme left hand side of the restaurant…. the Olde Mexico Room. This room featured the choicest of foods and liquors, finest dance floor surface and unusual floor show!
Between the Olde Mexico Room and the main diner was a 1931 vintage Worcester Lunch Car (No. 677) that was built as a dining room only (no counter or cooking area). This was a basic plain car for Worcester with no ceramic tile to speak of, just oak panelled walls and black & white linoleum covered floors. Its dimensions were 14 feet by 40 feet.
Wightman’s Dinette – a new dining room for those who desire prompt table service. An unusually pleasant room to bring the family.
Detail image & caption from the Providence Sunday Journal,
October 9, 1938
Wightman’s. Largest Diner in the World. South Attleboro — Route 1 — Mass.
Banquet Hall: — Accommodations for large and small groups, showers, wedding breakfasts, banquets, sales meetings, social gatherings, etc.
Mexican Patio Room: — Where folks enjoy nightly, the choicest of foods and liquors, and the finest dance floor surface.
Phone Perry 1994 for reservations. Under the personal management of John C, Wightman, Prop. (caption from back of Post card)
Looks like Wightman’s also had a diner in Rumford, RI, a Brill diner according to the detail image in the postcard.
Providence Sunday Journal – full page ad celebrating Wightman’s 15th Anniversary, October 9, 1938
According to the Worcester Lunch Car Company work books, there was also a Wightman’s Diner in Pawtucket, RI. This was Worcester Lunch Car No. 675. It was located on Pawtucket Avenue and was a 12.5 feet by 30.5 feet barrel-roof with “Tables for Ladies” as well as counter seating.
I’m not sure when Wightman’s stopped operating but there is no trace of this once sprawling complex in South Attleboro. I do know that Almac’s market built a store on the sight (possibly late 1950’s to early 1960’s). More recently, Almac’s closed and Yankee Spirits liquor and wine stores currently runs an outlet in the building.
Thanks, to Dick Gutman and the Culinary Arts Museum for providing images as well as Elaine Monast for providing the incentive for this post.