Images from the Past… Wightman’s Diner

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.

Wightman’s Diner, circa late 1920’s to early 1930’s, photo courtesy of
Richard J.S. Gutman

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 Diner match cover

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.

cover from Wightman’s menu courtesy of  Culinary Arts Museum at
Johnson & Wales University

Wightman’s menu page courtesy of  Culinary Arts Museum at
Johnson & Wales University

Wightman’s menu courtesy of  Culinary Arts Museum at
Johnson & Wales University

another Wightman’s match cover

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.

11 thoughts on “Images from the Past… Wightman’s Diner

  1. My mother, born in 1929, was wondering about Wightman’s diner as she remembered her mother talking about going there for apple pie a-la-mode. She lived in attleboro, MA and still lives in that area. I especially love the images of the menus and daily specials that include prices. I knew there had to be information somewhere on-line and I found it here. Thanks for a great blog. I had been spelling the name incorrectly at first but once I added the text 1930’s to my search I was able to find it quickly. I will share these images with my mother next time I visit with my laptop. Thanks! SueB – RI.

  2. I grew up in South Attleboro and lived there from 1955-1973. Wightman’s was gone by the time i came along but I remember the roof of that diner sat behind a house on Highland Avenue just east of the Robin Hollow Cafe. I recall my father telling me that story. It was still there when I moved away from South Attleboro in ’73. Not sure what the story was of how it got there. Almacs Supermarket was a fixture on that site where Wightman’s had been when I was growing up. I have never been able to find out much about that old diner. South Attleboro has changed so much over the years.

    • The roof of Wightman’s in Robin Hollow was actually more than a roof it was a complete section of one of the diners that made up Wightman’s. My Dad James Hudson who was born in Valley Falls, RI in 1905 worked there in his younger years and opened Hudson’s Diner on Broad St. in Valley Falls shortly after WWII and ran it until the new Cumberland High School opened around 62 and business went down. The property in Robin Hollow was owned by my Mother Margaret Leonard Hudson aunt and uncle who raised her and was left to my parents. Dad purchased the section of Wightman’s and put it on the property in the Hollow with plans to open it as a roadside drive-in some day but never got around to it. I was born in 55 the youngest of the 5 kids and remember walking around in it in the early 60s. It was in really bad shape then and eventually collapsed. I don’t know what year he purchased it and placed it there, I’ll sent this site to my sisters and see if they can give more details. My Dad passed away in 96 and some time later the property was cleaned up and the remains of the diner were removed. My dad used to take us to Carrol’s Hamburgers when we were kids and I remember him telling me about his old plans to open the diner in Robin Hollow but don’t have any details of his time at Wightman’s.

      • Bernie, I’m a little slow on the reply. Never knew the rest of that building was under the roof. Thinking back, I do remember when it was more than just the roof. Interesting that your Dad bought part of the old Wightman’s Diner. Going back to South Attleboro now, so many places have changed. Route 1 almost unrecognizable now. A belated thanks for your response.

  3. I believe my grandfather, my father’s father worked there at the diner in the 1930s . George Dalpe was his name. My grandfather was a cook.

  4. I believe in the same spot. It is now Yankee Spirits Liquor store. Before that it was Almacs Supermarket. I believe they bought the land?

  5. My ex-girlfriend’s grandfather from Valley Falls had a matchbook from Wightman’s in his toolbox. He passed away decades before I started dating his granddaughter & when her grandmother passed away, I was graciously given the toolbox (20 years ago). I re-discovered the matchbook today (it’s almost completely obliterated by time) & from mild curiosity, I did a quick search which brought me to your site. I have a scan of the matchbook if anyone’s interested but it’s honestly almost completely useless/unreadable. On another side-note, I used to shop at that Yankee Spirits…never knew it was an Almacs, much less the former site of the World’s Biggest Diner. Cool site, thanks to everyone for the added info.

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