A look back at the Park Street Diner – Ayer, Mass.

Here is a diner that never should have disappeared. This was a 1950’s vintage DeRaffele Diner, one of only 3 known to be delivered to Massachusetts (not counting the Corner Lunch which was a Musi re-do of a similar model DeRaffele). This was the Park Street Diner located in downtown Ayer, Mass. It was also one of the largest diners in the Bay State and had plenty of business, probably because of its proximity to Fort Devens. In fact it was open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year!

I ate at this diner quite a few times over the years, in fact some of those visits predated the start of my officially documenting diners with photos. It was always pretty startling to round the corner of Rte. 2A and see this huge stainless steel covered diner sitting on the corner, especially since most of the diners in this area of Massachusetts were much smaller Worcester Lunch Cars! Dick Gutman has a photo in his book, American Diner Then & Now showing the earlier incarnation of this diner, a very rare Barriere Diner!

The Park Street Diner closed  in late 1985 if I recall correctly. It was bought by Carlton Blackwell, a former Mayor of Fitchburg. Ironically, when I researched just now to get Mr. Blackwell’s name right, I found he had passed away on my last birthday (May 25, 2010). When the diner closed, I recall reading that Mr. Blackwell said the day of the diner had passed and that he was renovating the building to become a different restaurant called “Ryan’s Roast” which featured roast beef and other meats.

So, after an auction  the diner was started to be renovated. Before all the stainless steel and enameled striped exterior was destroyed, Dan Scully, one of the original members of the Society for Commercial Archeology was able to secure the rights to remove the exterior covering which to my knowledge, he still has. In fact Dan loaned 2 or 3 sections including window trim which became a huge part of the landmark exhibit, American Diner Then & Now that was curated by Dick Gutman at the National Heritage Museum in Lexington, Mass. back in 1995. They were used at the entrance to the exhibit.

Above you can see the diner building after the stainless exterior was removed. It was being enlarged to become Ryan’s Roast. This restaurant did not last too long, maybe 1.5 to 2 years at the most. After it closed, it became a bank and is currently still being used as a bank. See below….

Here is an image from Google Street view showing the building as it currently is…. a Sovereign Bank branch. It looks to be even more modified since I shot my photo, the entryway is larger now!