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!

Notes from the Hotline, 10-29-2010

Former Lynn, Mass. Diner opened in New Hampshire

The Riley Bros. Diner formerly located in Lynn, Mass. was moved within the last 5 years to the Ossipee, NH area. I had frequented the diner in the early 1980’s when it traded under names such as The Boston Street Diner and Serino’s Diner. I even recall it was known as Buster’s in the 1970’s.

Boston Street Diner, Boston Street – Lynn, Mass.
November, 1980 photo by Larry Cultrera

 This 1941 vintage Sterling Diner had not served food since the mid-1980’s when a new owner gutted the almost original interior and began running a Balloon & Flower Shop out of the building, until he moved the business around the corner to a larger storefront near the corner of Chestnut Street and Western Avenue a few years ago.

the diner operating as a Balloon & Flower Store, photo by Larry Cultrera

The diner after the Balloon & Flower Store moved out, that is Steve Repucci on the right, checking out the diner not long before it moved to NH!
Photo by Larry Cultrera

The diner stood empty for a short time until the property surrounding the diner and other adjacent buildings was developed for a new branch bank. In 2006 the diner was sold and moved to Madison, NH and is owned by the Silver Lake Railroad (a heritage railroad).

Riley Bros. Diner at new location, circa 2006 photo by Brian Page

Here is a blurb from Wikipedia about the SLRR….  The Silver Lake Railroad opened on July 7, 2007, operating from Madison Station (aka Silver Lake Depot) in the town of Madison. This station was a stop for the Boston and Maine Railroad from 1872 until passenger service ended on the line in 1961. The station has been restored over the period from 2002-2007, and much of its original features are intact. The original order boards and stationmaster office were undisturbed, as well as the interior of the station (now housing the Silver Lake post office), which displays its original varnished woodwork. Check out their website at….

I received word from Bob Higgins not long ago that the diner had undergone a retrofitting and been reopened for limited food service at the Silver Lake Railroad. My pal Steve Repucci was in the area this past weekend and checked the place out (his first time seeing it since that time I shot the photo above with Steve in it) . Steve took the next group of photos…….

October, 2010 photo by Steve Repucci

October, 2010 photo by Steve Repucci

October, 2010 photo by Steve Repucci

October, 2010 photo by Steve Repucci

Steve tells me they are not operating as a regular diner possibly due to town Board of Health regulations and of course the SLRR is only open seasonally, in fact the season has just ended. So this means the diner is now closed until spring!

Richard J. S. Gutman to give new “Diner” Lecture

Diner Historian Richard J. S. Gutman is giving a brand-new lecture at
The National Heritage Museum in Lexington, Mass. 
on Saturday, November 20th at 2:00 PM.

Part of the Museum’s Lowell Lecture series, the presentation is called…

“What Is It about Diners? More Than a Meal, That’s for Sure”

Richard J. S. Gutman, director and curator of the Culinary Arts Museum at Johnson & Wales University in Providence, RI, will hold an illustrated lecture entitled, “What Is It about Diners? More Than a Meal, That’s for Sure.” Gutman will elaborate based on 40 years of eating and research. The lecture complements the exhibition, “Night Road: Photographs of Diners by John D. Woolf.”  The lecture is Free and open to the public.

The National Heritage Museum is located at……..
33 Marrett Road (At the intersection of Route 2A and Massachusetts Ave.)Lexington, MA 02421

Diner Hotline Weblog celebrates 3rd Anniversary

Yours truly at Lunch Box Diner in Malden, Mass.
Photo by Denise Cultrera

This Sunday, October 31st marks the 3rd anniversary of Diner Hotline being on the Web! I cannot believe 3 years have gone by since I retired the old hard copy column from the SCA Journal and shortly thereafter, with prodding from Brian Butko, this blog was born! As I write this, the blog has gotten 134, 819 hits and I am hopeful that more and more people are discovering Diner Hotline through internet search engines as well as from connections like Facebook and the like! Thanks to all my faithful readers!