Embassy Grille, AKA Market Square Diner (with Brill diner primer)

This blog post is ultimately about the Embassy Grill (or Grille), a diner that lived most of its operating life fairly close to the factory that built it. But before I get into the details (as I know them) about that diner, I want to relate a little history (a primer if you will) about the company that built it and how few of these diners survive today!  The info for the history of Brill Diners comes from the research of my friend Dick Gutman…. The Embassy was built by Wason Manufacturing Company of Springfield, Massachusetts, one of two subsidiaries of the J.G. Brill Company which was based out of Philadelphia, PA.  Brill was noted for their line of trolley cars and train trucks (the wheel assemblies for railroad rolling stock). The other subsidiary being the G.C. Kuhlman Car Company out of Cleveland, Ohio, which presumably served a more mid-western customer base. For a period of time in the late 1920s and early 1930s they also produced a line of steel diners. There were countless examples of Brill Diners located in the eastern U.S., especially in the northeast. We had many in and around the Boston area. Places I personally know about such as Caverly’s Diner in Charlestown, the Pine Tree Diner in Somerville (both gone by the end of the 1970s) as well as the very first version of Carroll’s Diner in my hometown of Medford. The lone surviving Brill diner currently operating in the northeast is the Capitol Diner in downtown Lynn, Massachusetts. In point of fact, the Capitol may be the only operating Brill diner left anywhere!

Brill diners all had monitor style roofs with the raised  clerestory highly reminiscent of railroad cars. The exteriors were covered in painted steel panels and had cast iron light fixtures with round white globes affixed to the curved section on the roof hanging just over the windows.  Most if not all Brill diners featured glass-topped counters where the diner operators would display pies and other baked goods and the cooking was done right behind the counter, short order style. The next few photos will show you some of the distinctive features of a typical Brill Diner…

capitol2
The exterior of the Capitol Diner in Lynn, Mass. The exteriors almost
always had a door situated at the corners of the front facade flanking
at least 8 windows. Some may have been built with a door centered
on the front facade.

Capitol-2_6-5-11
The interior of the Capitol Diner showing the glass-topped counter. This diner’s interior
has been altered mostly due to a fire in the late 1970s but still retains the original feel.
(photo by Larry Cultrera)

restored-exterior-light
An exterior light fixture from my personal collection. It was removed from the Capitol
Diner when the roof was recovered in the early 1990s. Some were broken and in fact
they had not been used in years. I removed several layers of paint and restored what looked
to be the original dark green finish. The white globe was obtained by the National Heritage
Museum in Lexington, Mass. when the light fixture was loaned to them for a major diner exhibit.
(photo by Larry Cultrera)

The next few photos are of other examples of Brill Diners here in the northeast that lasted past the middle of the 20th century…

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The original Carroll’s Diner of Medford, Mass. (1930-1948). This diner actually lasted until
1961, being used as a kitchen annex for a newer version of Carroll’s Diner that replaced this
one in 1948.

Carrolls-#1-interior
Interior view of Carroll’s Diner prior to 1948.

Caverly's-diner_exterior-2
Caverly’s Diner, Charlestown, Mass. lasted into the 1970s. This was in pretty much original
condition (albeit fairly worn out) by the time this photo was taken. (source – Life magazine archives)

Pine-Tree-Diner_Snowstorm
The Pine Tree Diner of Somerville, Mass. also lasted into the 1970s. By the time this was
demolished for the MBTA Red Line subway extension, it was pretty much disguised.
(photo courtesy of David Guss)

Brill-diner_Arlington-Heights
An old photo from my collection featuring a Brill diner located on Massachusetts Avenue
at Arlington Heights – Arlington, Mass. This diner would later be replaced in the 1950s by
a large stainless steel Fodero diner that operated briefly here as part of the Monarch Diner
chain before moving to Cambridge to become the Kendall Diner. The site was then occupied
by a Worcester streamliner known as the 
Pullman Diner until that closed in the mid-1970s.
(photo from my collection)

1st-Walsh's-Diner
Walsh’s Diner looks to be an earlier & larger Brill diner that was located on the corner
of West Water Street & Main Street in Wakefield, Mass. until the early 1950s when it
was replaced by a streamline modernistic Jerry O’Mahony diner. This diner went on to
another operating location on Bridge Road – U.S. Rte. 1 in Salisbury, Mass. as Bossy Gillis’
Diner for an unspecified amount of time. (photo from my collection)

Miss-Troy3
The Miss Troy Diner of Troy, NY though somewhat altered, lasted until the early 2000s
before it was demolished. (photo by Larry Cultrera)

Deluxe-Diner_Brill
A little further afield was the Deluxe Diner of Pomona, CA. This Brill diner was longer and
wider than most and had the rare center front door configuration. Notice the cast iron light
fixtures here with the white globes. (photo from my collection)

Well, now that you know a little about Brill Diners, I will get down to the nitty gritty on the Embassy Grill. What got me to think of this diner was that a friend from Facebook & Flickr (Greg MacKay) had pointed me toward a link to the website Masslive.com that featured a bunch of photos of restaurants in the greater Springfield area that no longer exist. The Embassy Grill showed up in 2 photos!

Masslive-1
photo of the Embassy Grill in Chicopee from the late 1970s, possibly right after the diner closed at
its original location. (Masslive.com)

Masslive-2
photo of the Embassy Grill at its second location in South Hadley adjacent to the Riverboat Restaurant,
circa 1980s. (Masslive.com)

After seeing those two photos, I decided to revisit this  diner (so to speak) and dig up info including my own involvement in documenting this place and any other facts I had in my archives. Some of those facts came from some great detective work by Will Anderson. Will wrote about this diner in his book “Lost Diners and Roadside Restaurants of New England and New York” (2001). According to what Will dug up, this diner was originally located at 253 Front Street in the Market Square area of Chicopee, Massachusetts, the next town to the north of Springfield (where Wason Manufacturing was located). Opened in 1928, it was operated as the Market Square Diner by owner Bill “Winkie” Theroux. Ironically I was speaking on the phone to John Baeder about this upcoming post and mentioned Will Anderson and John informed me that Will had recently passed away on March 7, 2015. I was saddened to hear this and later spoke with Will’s wife Catherine Buotte to reminisce as well as express my condolences.

Market Square Diner MB
old matchbook cover from page 86 of “Lost Diners and Roadside Restaurants of New England
and New York”, Will Anderson, 2001

I personally first knew of this diner through an image that was depicted on page 73 in John Baeder’s 1978 book “Diners”. John photographed the diner back in the 1970s. He normally would have done either a watercolor or oil painting of the image but had decided to expand his horizons by looking at other mediums. In this case he teamed up with master printer Donn H. Steward (1921-1985). A plate was created to be used in the printing of the soft-ground etching (the black & white image in his book). Ironically, years later I would become the guardian of a number of “Artist’s Proofs” of the soft-ground etching of the Embassy that had been stored for years in John’s “walk-up” apartment in New York City. When he was cleaning out the old apartment in 1988, I helped him pack up the rest of his belongings and the Trial Proofs were there. He asked me to take care of them for a period of time, which turned out to be close to 20 years or so. After finally sending off the proofs to John a few years ago, he sent an autographed one back to me and is a treasured part of my collection!

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John Baeder’s soft-ground etching of the Embassy Grill from 1976
Embassy-Grille-letter
The letter of Authentication for the soft-ground etching Artist print

The-Embassy-15-43-42-13
A more recent painting by John Baeder more than likely from the same image that
the soft-ground etching came from. EMBASSY, “24 x 36” oil on canvas, 2011
(Courtesy, John Baeder)

When I first saw the image of the diner in John Baeder’s book, I had no idea if it even still existed. After becoming friends with John in 1982, I learned John was residing in Nashville, Tennessee after moving there from New York City. He’d been there for a couple of years already but had recently bought the house he now lives in. He was planning on coming back to New York City to pack up a portion of his belongings and truck them down to Nashville. I ended up offering my services to him so in October of 1983, I met John down in NYC and helped him load a rental truck with a huge amount of books, memorabilia and other personal objects. I actually stayed at his old apartment for 2 or 3 days and at one point found an old Kodak slide carousel box that was being used for storage of some papers and memorabilia, etc. I saw 2 or 3 yellowed news clippings (from the Springfield Morning Union newspaper) someone had sent John that were dated from 1979 or so and they were all about the Embassy Grille (that’s how it was spelled here) being moved to South Hadley, Massachusetts by Anthony W. Ravosa Sr. Mr. Ravosa was known around greater Springfield as a band leader (Tony Ravosa Orchestra), Attorney and the owner of restaurants and real estate. In 1969, he purchased a small ramshackle bar on the banks of the Connecticut River in South Hadley called the River Lodge, which he would later remodel and expand dramatically over many years into the storied Riverboat, a celebrated, four-star restaurant of wide renown.

Back to the Embassy… the Theroux family continued to operate the diner under its original name (Market Sqaure Diner) until 1966 according to Will Anderson. At that time it was mostly being run by Bobby Theroux, Winkie’s son. Theroux decided to expand the diner by building a brick addition on the right end of the building to increase seating in the establishment. This was when the name change occurred “to something a little more classy”… the Embassy Grill! If you look at the old images of the Embassy you will see that the diner has a barrel roof instead of the monitor that a Brill diner always had. I believe when the annex was built, it was decided to add the newer barrel roof over the original monitor to make the connection to the new building work better. Though not common at least it was better than a mansard roof!

The Embassy continued to operate until 1978 when Bob Theroux sold the property the diner was on to the city of Chicopee for a street widening project. This is when Theroux sold the diner to Anthony Ravosa. Those news clippings I got from John Baeder spelled out the problems that Mr. Ravosa unfortunately ended up having when he moved the diner. He ran into a roadblock briefly when the Town of South Hadley claimed that Ravosa moving the diner to his property adjacent to the Riverboat Restaurant violated zoning laws and that it needed special building permits, etc. Be that as it may, Ravosa ended up doing what he needed to do to get the old diner situated on the new location. Unfortunately his plans did not include using it as a traditional diner but an oyster bar connected to the larger restaurant!

After helping John Baeder pack up a rental truck and move his belongings down to Nashville that Ocotber, 1983 – (what a roadtrip that was!), I was now armed with a location to finally document with photographs the Embassy Grill! So on November 13, 1983, Dave Hebb  and myself took a ride out to South Hadley to locate the old diner. After a little hunting we did find the location on River Lodge Road and found the restaurant complex by then operating as DeLuca’s Riverboat Restaurant! After recently speaking with Anthony Ravosa Jr., I learned that his father had given up daily operation of the restaurant and started leasing the place to other operators. In fact at one point it was a dance club and may have been known as Mark Twain’s.

Embassy-Grille-3
Exterior view of the Embassy Grill being used as an Oyster Bar in South Hadley, Mass.
It looks like they attempted to make the diner look more like a caboose.
(November 13, 1983 photo by Larry Cultrera)

Embassy-Grille-2
Emabassy Grill in South Hadley, Mass. The interior of the diner had been stripped and just had tables
and chairs if I recall. Curiously, the Belding Hall refrigerator was still where it always was – for some
reason, they kept it. (November 13, 1983 photo by Larry Cultrera)

Embassy-Grille-7
My photo looking from across the Connecticut River using a telephoto lens – DeLuca’s Riverboat
with the Embassy Grill. (November 13, 1983 photo by Larry Cultrera)

From speaking with Anthony Ravosa Jr. as well as Randy Garbin, it looks like the complex lasted here in South Hadley until the early 1990s when the property was redeveloped into townhouse condos. So there is no trace of the former Embassy Grill or the Riverboat Restaurant left! The diner could have ceased to exist back in 1978 or so but lived a fairly short second life not too far away from its long-time operating location and probably still within 10 miles or so of where it was manufactured, making it the second to last operating Brill diner in Massachusetts! On a final note the former owners of the Embassy Grill passed away in the last 5 years, Anthony Ravosa Sr. on May 10, 2010 and Bobby Theroux more recently at the age of 100 years on August 26, 2013.

Another Diner Road Trip – 27 years ago this weekend

I have been rather delinquent in posting recently. In part due to laziness and also because I have been contemplating this post, I just needed to scan a bunch of slides for it. A few months ago I scanned some slides for Michael Gabriele that he may or may not end up using in his forthcoming book – The History of Diners in New Jersey for my publisher, The History Press. Two of the slide boxes I left out purposely to remind me about this post and get busy scanning.

Well that really did not spur me into action and they sat (and sat). Finally a little over a week ago I got off my rear end and started scanning because Memorial Day Weekend was fast approaching and the post I wanted to write was about a Diner road trip I took on Memorial Day Weekend in 1986!

When I had scanned the slides of Paul’s Diner of Kearny, NJ for Mike G., I looked at the other slides in the box and remembered that trip. I also realized there was one other box of slides (as well as 5 slides in yet a third box) that were associated with that trip. So today I completed the scanning process and decided to get on with this post before the weekend is over!

Memorial Day Weekend in 1986 was May 24th thru 26th (Saturday to Monday). These road trips were usually taken with either Steve Repucci or David Hebb (or both). I believe this was a Dave Hebb trip….. well anyway, we more than likely took off early as I usually liked to do on Saturday, May 24th and made it down to Fairfield, CT and Larry’s Diner, as it was the first one photographed on this trip. That Saturday was pretty overcast, weather-wise as the photos will show.

I had already been to Larry’s 3 years earlier according to my Diner Log, so it was not listed in the log on this trip in 1986. We may even have had breakfast here but more than likely it was at the very least a coffee stop and photo op. This diner was built by the Jerry O’Mahony Co. in the early 1930’s and was still in extremely original condition at this point.

Larry's-Diner-1
Larry’s Diner, U.S. Rte. 1 in Fairfield, CT  –  Right Front corner
May 24, 1986 photo by Larry Cultrera

Larry's-Diner-3
Larry’s Diner, U.S. Rte. 1 in Fairfield, CT   –  Left Front corner
May 24, 1986 photo by Larry Cultrera

Larry's-Diner-6
Larry’s Diner, U.S. Rte. 1 in Fairfield, CT  – Left front showing the interesting
addition to the diner – a lunch wagon sized annex with a frosted window!
May 24, 1986 photo by Larry Cultrera

Larry’s Diner, was moved around the corner from this location in the 1990’s and completely gutted on the interior to become the front of another restaurant. The outside was also changed.

Our next stop was George’s Diner at 71 Main Street in Norwalk, CT. This was a Mountain View Diner that was also fairly original inside and out with one exception, there was a brick facade under the windows facing Main St. and on the entryway. The rest of the facade was intact. The diner is still there and operating under the name “Family Diner” now.

George's-Diner-1George’s Diner, 71 Main St.  in Norwalk, CT
May 24, 1986 photo by Larry Cultrera

George's-Diner-2
George’s Diner, 71 Main St.  in Norwalk, CT
May 24, 1986 photo by Larry Cultrera

Down the road a piece just off U.S. Rte. 1 in Cos Cob, CT was a small 1920’s vintage barrel-roofed diner called Thanh’s Diner. It had formerly been known as Pal Joey’s Diner. This was believed to be an old Tierney diner built down the road in New Rochelle. This diner does not exist anymore.

Thanh's-Diner-1
Thanh’s Diner, just off U.S. Rte. 1  in Cos Cob, CT
May 24, 1986 photo by Larry Cultrera

Thanh's-Diner-3
Thanh’s Diner, just off U.S. Rte. 1  in Cos Cob, CT
May 24, 1986 photo by Larry Cultrera

A diner I had first read about in the book Diners of the Northeast by Donald Kaplan and Allison Bellink was the Chinatown Diner, a late 1940’s vintage diner (could be a Kullman but more than likely DeRaffele) located at 301 Halstead Ave. in Harrison, NY. It had been serving primarily Chinese food as well as an American breakfast menu when Don and Allison had visited it. By the time I finally got there in 1986, it had become an upscale bistro called the Silver Spoon Cafe.

Silver-Spoon-Cafe-2
Silver Spoon Cafe, 301 Halstead Ave.  in Harrison, NY
May 24, 1986 photo by Larry Cultrera

Silver-Spoon-Cafe-4
Silver Spoon Cafe, 301 Halstead Ave.  in Harrison, NY
May 24, 1986 photo by Larry Cultrera

When I originally wrote this post I thought the Silver Spoon Cafe was the final photo op of the day. But alas, it turns out I missed a couple of images of yet another diner that was previously logged (it did not show up in the May of 1986 section of the log, that is why I forgot to upload these). It seems we got over to the northwest corner of the Garden State and checked out Prout’s Diner in Sussex by late afternoon.

Prouts-Diner-5
Prout’s Diner, Main Street.  in Sussex, NJ
May 24, 1986 photo by Larry Cultrera

Prouts-Diner-7
Prout’s Diner, Main Street.  in Sussex, NJ
May 24, 1986 photo by Larry Cultrera

It looked like the weather was finally turning for the better before night came on and sure enough, bright and early on the morning of May 25th (my 33rd birthday), it was a very sunny day which made for a great breakfast and even better photos at Pal’s Diner on Rte. 17 in Mahwah, NJ.

Pal's-Diner-1
Pal’s Diner, Rte. 17  in Mahwah, NJ
May 25, 1986 photo by Larry Cultrera

Pal's-Diner-3
Pal’s Diner, Rte. 17  in Mahwah, NJ
May 25, 1986 photo by Larry Cultrera

Pal’s Diner is one of a very few diners I have photographed that was built by Manno Diners. It was moved in the 1990’s to Grand Rapids, Michigan where it continues to operate to this day!

The next diner photographed that morning (according to the order of slides in the box) was in fact another diner I had previously visited, the White Manna on River Street in Hackensack, NJ. This was the first of several “small” diners we documented on this trip. All of these particular small diners were built dating from the late 1930’s to early 1950’s. Most offered limited menus offering hamburgers, etc. Being that it was Sunday morning, it was not open at the point in time that I stopped. I was able to document it pretty well on the exterior but the fact that it was closed offered me a great opportunity to get some great interior “thru-the-window” shots as well.

White-Manna-1
White Manna, 358 River St.  in Hackensack, NJ
May 25, 1986 exterior photo by Larry Cultrera

White-Manna-2
White Manna, 358 River St.  in Hackensack, NJ
May 25, 1986 exterior photo by Larry Cultrera

White-Manna-5
White Manna, 358 River St.  in Hackensack, NJ
May 25, 1986 interior photo by Larry Cultrera

White-Manna-4
White Manna, 358 River St.  in Hackensack, NJ
May 25, 1986 interior photo by Larry Cultrera

White-Manna-6
White Manna, 358 River St.  in Hackensack, NJ
May 25, 1986 interior photo by Larry Cultrera

White-Manna-8
White Manna, 358 River St.  in Hackensack, NJ
May 25, 1986 interior photo by Larry Cultrera

White-Manna-7
White Manna, 358 River St.  in Hackensack, NJ
May 25, 1986 interior photo by Larry Cultrera

Next up was another small diner….. the White Diamond on St. Georges Ave. (Rte. 27) in Linden, NJ. This looks to be built by Mountain View diners and I believe it was moved to another location not too far away within the intervening years since I documented it.

White-Diamond_L-2
White Diamond, St. Georges Ave.  in Linden, NJ
May 25, 1986 photo by Larry Cultrera

White-Diamond_L-3
White Diamond, St. Georges Ave.  in Linden, NJ
May 25, 1986 photo by Larry Cultrera

Another small diner and possibly the jewel of the bunch was the Short Stop located at 26 Washington Ave. in Belleville, NJ. One of the cutest diners I have ever photographed, this diner was bought quite a few years ago by Steve Harwin of Cleveland, Ohio’s Diversified Diners. As far as I know, Steve still has this one in storage.

Short-Stop-2
Short Stop Diner, 26 Washington Ave.  in Belleville, NJ
May 25, 1986 photo by Larry Cultrera

Short-Stop-5
Short Stop Diner, 26 Washington Ave.  in Belleville, NJ
May 25, 1986 photo by Larry Cultrera

We made it over to the Harrison/Kearny area after this and saw Max’s Grill, but probably due to the morning light and Max’s being on the wrong side of the street… I did not shoot any photos of it. Just up the street from Max’s on the opposite side just over the line in Kearny we came across another small diner, the Blue Castle System. This diner has since disappeared. There is a Shell Gas Station on the sight now according to Google street view.

Blue-Castle-2
Blue Castle System Diner, 829 Harrison Ave.  in Kearny, NJ
May 25, 1986 photo by Larry Cultrera

Blue-Castle-3
Blue Castle System Diner, 829 Harrison Ave.  in Kearny, NJ
May 25, 1986 photo by Larry Cultrera

Just down the street from the Blue Castle was Paul’s Diner, a 1940’s vintage Fodero. I have recently found out the diner is still there and operating as the Cardinal Diner. The only visible change I could determine was that it now sports a mansard roof that covers the original monitor style roof.

Paul's-Diner-2
Paul’s Diner, 1002 Harrison Ave.  in Kearny, NJ
May 25, 1986 photo by Larry Cultrera

Paul's-Diner-3
Paul’s Diner, 1002 Harrison Ave.  in Kearny, NJ
May 25, 1986 photo by Larry Cultrera

We got over to the Orange, NJ area shortly after and located the closed (taken for back taxes) Orange Diner on Lincoln Ave. behind the U.S. Post Office. This was a nice looking Mountain View diner. I do not know what happened to this diner other than the fact that the space is currently occupied by a parking lot.

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Orange Diner, Lincoln Ave.  in Orange, NJ
May 25, 1986 photo by Larry Cultrera

Orange-Diner-3
Orange Diner, Lincoln Ave.  in Orange, NJ
May 25, 1986 photo by Larry Cultrera

Also in Orange we found the State Diner over on Valley Road. This 1950’s Kullman diner as far as I know is still there, although I do not know if it is currently in operation.

State-Diner-1
State Diner, Valley Rd.  in Orange, NJ
May 25, 1986 photo by Larry Cultrera

State-Diner-3
State Diner, Valley Rd.  in Orange, NJ
May 25, 1986 photo by Larry Cultrera

Next up was the nicely preserved 1930’s vintage Summit Diner located at the corner of Summit Ave. and Union Place in downtown Summit, NJ. This was typical of what the Jerry O’Mahony diner company was building by the late 30’s. The diner is still there and operating.

Summit-Diner-2
Summit Diner, Summit Ave. & Union Pl.  in Summit, NJ
May 25, 1986 photo by Larry Cultrera

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Summit Diner, Summit Ave. & Union Pl.  in Summit, NJ
May 25, 1986 photo by Larry Cultrera

Here is the last small diner we saw that day… the 2nd of 3 White Diamond Hamburger places (we did not see the 3rd one located in Clark, NJ on this trip). This one was located at the corner of Bayway Ave. and Thomas St. in Elizabeth, NJ. I just checked Google street view and there is a Dunkin Donuts on the same location now.

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White Diamond, Bayway Ave. & Thomas St.  in Elizabeth, NJ
May 25, 1986 photo by Larry Cultrera

White-Diamond_E-3
White Diamond, Bayway Ave. & Thomas St.  in Elizabeth, NJ
May 25, 1986 photo by Larry Cultrera

White-Diamond_E-5
White Diamond, Bayway Ave. & Thomas St.  in Elizabeth, NJ
May 25, 1986 photo by Larry Cultrera

After Elizabeth, NJ we were back on the road for home and made one last stop for a photo op back in Norwalk, CT. This was for the former Norwalk Diner at that time operating as Cafe Osman. This looks to be a 1940 vintage DeRaffele diner, the type that resembled what Fodero was building at the same point in time. This diner had been altered by bricking up the facade under the windows. In fact the diner which was situated end-wise to the street had a door that was in the center of the facade facing the driveway/parking area that apparently was not used anymore. This door had been “bricked-up” as well with only the top half of the window showing. I do not know if this is still there.

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Cafe Osman, Main St.  in Norwalk, CT
May 25, 1986 exterior photo by Larry Cultrera

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Cafe Osman, Main St.  in Norwalk, CT
May 25, 1986 exterior photo by Larry Cultrera

Cafe-Osman-5
Cafe Osman, Main St.  in Norwalk, CT
May 25, 1986 interior photo by Larry Cultrera

The next road trip was not until August 1st of 1986when Dave Hebb and I photographed a couple of diners in Verbank and Millbrook… in eastern upstate New York.

November 10th thru 11th, 1984 – Staten Island, New York & New Jersey Roadtrip

Here is another blast from the past, a road-trip from late in 1984 that encompassed parts of Staten Island, New York City, New Jersey and upstate New York. It seems the reason for this trip other than shooting photos of some diners was to get to the opening day of an exhibit of John Baeder paintings at the OK Harris Gallery in Soho.  According to my Log Book, that Saturday was November 10th and it looks like Steve Repucci, Dave Hebb and myself got into New York City fairly early and had some time to kill, so we grabbed the Staten Island Ferry to check out that most southern borough of NYC. I believe Dave had already done some exploring on his own there previously so he knew the lay of the land somewhat. The first diner we visited was the Victory Diner on Richmond Rd. not too far from the ferry dock. Victory-1
Victory Diner, Richmond Rd., Staten Island.
November 10, 1984 photo by Larry Cultrera

Victory-2
Victory Diner, Richmond Rd., Staten Island.
November 10, 1984 photo by Larry Cultrera

Here is an aside about this post… what inspired me to do this particular post is the news that the Victory Diner which had been moved from the location seen here a number of years ago recently made the news again! That move happened in fact back in 2007 and I wrote about it in the last installment of the former hard-copy version of Diner Hotline that appeared in  the Fall 2007 edition of the SCA (Society for Commercial Archeology) Journal magazine.

The last owners were retiring and the spot where the diner was located was slated for redevelopment. This meant the diner was slated for a possible demolition. A group of preservationists stepped in before this could happen and had the diner relocated to the Ocean Breeze waterfornt, specifically, Midland Beach. Since the move in 2007, the diner has remained in storage behind a chain link fence. This fence only partially protected it but it has been reported that the diner has received some vandalism over the last 5 years.  But to top the whole thing off, the October 29th Super Storm Sandy virtually destroyed what was left of the diner, basically leaving the steel frame and roof.  It seems the above info was incorrect when a report surfaced not too long after I wrote this stating that the diner had been stripped and the materials removed were placed in a storage trailer on the site in anticipation of restoration….. LAC

Here is a photo from the (Dec. 4, 2012) Staten Island Advance by Jan Somma-Hammel showing what is left of the diner…….

Victory_Jan-Somma-Hammel

Now back to 1984……. the next diner we saw on Staten Island was Joe’s Diner. At least that is what I have in the Log Book. I am not sure how we even knew what the name was for this place as it looked like it was not in operation anymore. It seemed to be well cared for as my photos will show and a current Google street view of the address shows the place pretty much still looks the same now as it did back then.

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Joe’s Diner at 84 Lincoln Ave. on Staten Island.
November 10, 1984 photo by Larry Cultrera

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Joe’s Diner at 84 Lincoln Ave. on Staten Island.
November 10, 1984 photo by Larry Cultrera

I am not sure who manufactured this diner but it looks interesting for sure!

The next diner must have been a drive-by as I only shot one photo of it. In fact I did not even have it officially in my Log Book until I was creating the data base a number of years ago. I also did not have a name or an address for the place until I scanned the slide a week ago for this blog post. There is a sign for the diner in the shot but it was hard to read the name. So I looked at the adjacent business….. Grant Tailors and did another Google search. This turned up an address. The address turned out to be 140 New Dorp Lane and from that I was able to deduce that the name of the diner was the Lane Diner!  By the way Grant Tailors is closed and out of business.

Lane-Diner
Lane Diner, 140 New Dorp Lane on Staten Island.
November 10, 1984 photo by Larry Cultrera

This place looks to be a modern stainless steel diner that was covered over – “Mediteraneanized”, so to speak. The dimensions are certainly right. The diner is still there and operating as a Los Lobos Mexican Restaurant as of 2012.

The next diner was the last stop on Staten Island before getting back to John Baeder’s exhibit at OK Harris was one diner Dave Hebb recalled for sure from an earlier roadtrip. This was an old 1920’s vintage barrel-roof diner known as Whoopsie’s Diner located on Jennett Ave. on Staten Island. It was closed and for sale, besides being in a little bit of rough shape but still usable. The building itself was modified at an earlier time, it seems someone decided to change the location of the entrance by “slashing” the corner of the diner.

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Exterior shot of Whoopsie’s Diner, Staten Island.
November 10, 1984 photo by Larry Cultrera

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Exterior shot of Whoopsie’s Diner, Staten Island.
November 10, 1984 photo by Larry Cultrera

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Interior shot of Whoopsie’s Diner, Staten Island.
November 10, 1984 photo by Larry Cultrera

We got back to the city prior to John’s exhibit opening and I finally got to take a couple of shots of the Moondance Diner around the corner from OK Harris. I had seen this diner on earlier trips when it was operating as the Tunnel Diner, but never documented it with photos. In the intervening years it had been reopened…. resurrected as the upscale Moondance Diner.

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Moondance Diner, 6th Ave., Manhattan
November 10, 1984 photo by Larry Cultrera

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Moondance Diner, 6th Ave., Manhattan
November 10, 1984 photo by Larry Cultrera

Here is a sort of crappy shot of John Baeder’s painting of the Comet Diner (Hartford, CT) at the OK Harris Gallery. It was based on a slide I shot for John back then.

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Shot of a John Baeder painting of the Comet Diner at OK Harris Gallery
November 10, 1984 photo by Larry Cultrera

After visiting with John and checking out the exhibit, we left with our ultimate destination being New Jersey. On the way out we saw a former White Tower Restaurant somewhere in lower Manhattan (I did not document the location unfortunately).

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former White Tower Restaurant in lower Manhattan
November 10, 1984 photo by Larry Cultrera

After going thru the tunnel over to New Jersey, we somehow made it over to Springfield, NJ and the Lido Diner on Route 22, (in my opinion one of the most scary sections of highway anywhere)! The Lido Diner on the other hand was a great 1960 vintage Paramount diner that has since been demolished for a bland, boxy 7-Eleven convenience store. I had previously documented this one on one of my first trips coming home from Harrisburg, PA by way of New Jersey.

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The Lido Diner on Rte. 22 in Springfield, NJ
November 10, 1984 photo by Larry Cultrera

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The Lido Diner on Rte. 22 in Springfield, NJ
November 10, 1984 photo by Larry Cultrera

The Bendix Diner in Hasbrouck Heights was our last stop for the day, this time for dinner. I had been there before so I did not need to log it but I did try 3 nighttime shots… here is one of them.

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The Bendix Diner at night…. Hasbrouck Heights, NJ
November 10, 1984 photo by Larry Cultrera

The next morning we checked out 3 New Jersey diners for photos. The first was the Arena Diner, a large Kullman circa 1940’s vintage was on the U.S. Rte. 1 truck route and was most certainly a truck stop. Closed on Sundays, this one was rough around the edges but still in operation.

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Arena Diner, U.S. Routes 1 and 9 – South Kearny, NJ
November 11, 1984 photo by Larry Cultrera

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Arena Diner, U.S. Routes 1 and 9 – South Kearny, NJ
November 11, 1984 photo by Larry Cultrera

After South Kearny we ran across a very old Silk City diner similar to the West Shore Diner in Lemoyne, PA. This was the Miss Jersey City Diner farther up U.S. Routes 1 & 9 in Jersey City. This place was closed and pretty much derelict…. not long for this world!

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Miss Jersey City Diner, Jersey City, NJ
November 11, 1984 photo by Larry Cultrera

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Miss Jersey City Diner, Jersey City, NJ
November 11, 1984 photo by Larry Cultrera

The next place we found was a complete rarity for the Garden State, a Sterling Dinette located at Newark Ave. and 6th St. in Jersey City. This is possibly the only known example of a Sterling diner in New Jersey!

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Dekay’s Diner, Jersey City, NJ
November 11, 1984 photo by Larry Cultrera

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Dekay’s Diner, Jersey City, NJ
November 11, 1984 photo by Larry Cultrera

A current Google street view shows an empty lot where this place used to be!

The last diner we documented for this road-trip was in North White Plains, NY, just off Route 22 near the Post Office. It was appropriately operating as the Off Broadway Diner (Rte. 22 is called Broadway here). Not sure who built this one, but my guess would be Kullman. It may also be a renovated model, who knows for sure but I believe the place is gone now.

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Off Broadway Diner, North White Plains, NY
November 11, 1984 photo by Larry Cultrera

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Off Broadway Diner, North White Plains, NY
November 11, 1984 photo by Larry Cultrera

Diner Hotline marking 30 Years of documenting Diners!

I always consider the weekend of Thanksgiving, specifically the Saturday after the Holiday, the anniversary of when I tentatively shot my first 35mm photo of a Diner. The actual date is November 29th (this coming Monday) but who’s counting? Me of course! It seems almost unbelievable that 30 years has gone by since that gray Saturday in Harrisburg, PA. I was with my brother Rick and old friend Scott Drown and we were visiting Steve Repucci whom we had helped moved to H’Burg the previous Labor Day Weekend.

The three of us had driven down from Massachusetts the day before and as I recall, our route down took us out I-90 to I-86 (a few years later I-86 was to be absorbed by I-84 in MA & CT), then I-84 all the way out to Scranton, PA, where we headed south on I-81.

I also recall the highway was shrouded in the thickest fog I have ever driven through, between Scranton and Harrisburg! I am glad it was the middle of the day, still it was one of the scariest rides I have ever been on!

Anyway, I do not recall what we did that Friday after we got down to Harrisburg but I know the next morning we drove down the street from where Steve and his room-mate Ed Womer were residing to the Bypass Diner on Herr Street (Rte. 22 bypass) in Harrisburg for breakfast. After the meal we went outside and I took out the old 35mm Mamiya camera and shot a photo from the left front of the diner.


Bypass Diner, Harrisburg, PA – Nov. 29, 1980 photo by Larry Cultrera
The diner has been operating for many years as the American Dream Diner

That is my 1979 blue Chevy Van in the parking lot. I drove that 271,000 miles between April of 1979 and December of 1988 and needless to say, a huge portion of that mileage (and time) was spent hunting Diners!

Since that day I have shot probably into the thousands of photos of diners throughout the northeast states as far down as Virginia and Tennessee, (skipped the Carolinas) and been able to document at least one in Georgia (Marietta Diner, Marietta) and then down to Florida to shoot a few more. I’ve also documented diners as far west as Ohio, Michigan and Illinois. According to my database diner log I have documented 815 diners with negative, slide and digital photography.

I have met some interesting people in the last 30 years including Richard & Kellie Gutman, John Baeder, David Hebb, Brian Butko, Randy Garbin, Glenn Wells, Mike Engle and Beth Lennon. I also want to acknowledge Diner owners who have become close friends…. Bob Fennell of the Capitol Diner,  Lynn, Mass. and Bill Nichols of the Rosebud Diner, Somerville, Mass. and Phil Paleologos of the Shawmut Diner, New Bedford, Mass.

I cannot forget to include the late Warren Jones, former owner of the Apple Tree Diner of Deham, Mass. as well as the late Owen Abdalian, former owner of the Main Street Diner of Woburn, Mass. who each passed away way too early and hold a special place in my memories.

Most of all I also want to acknowledge my wonderful wife Denise, who puts up with me, the collection of memorabilia and the obsession! Hopefully, I will continue this quest and be able to document more diners, although the long road trips have dwindled to a very few as years have gone by, and I will continue my efforts of passing along info to you my faithful readers with this blog, Diner Hotline!

Disclaimer: to be clear, this is not the 30th anniversary of the creation of Diner Hotline, just the 30th anniversary of shooting my first Diner photograph, the beginning of my efforts to document the American Diner, which of course spawned the creation of Diner Hotline in 1988 – LAC