Who am I?

Hi, my name is Spencer, and I like diners.

“Why?”, you may ask, and it’s a valid question. It’s certainly true that they don’t seem to get a lot of love these days. Maybe that’s part of the reason I do what I do. They’re disappearing or being remodeled beyond recognition at an alarming rate. While I don’t have the money or space to save any of these places, I can at the very least do my part in saving their memory.

Modernism for the masses. While the diner was born of the 19th century, of a horse drawn wagon, to me they epitomize the modernity of their era. A typical building is designed to last for decades. Diner design changed like car design did. Manufacturers were always coming out with newer, more streamlined designs. And like a car, the diner’s portable design allowed it to be moved and traded in for newer models. They were modernism for the masses.

For better or for worse, this march of progress which defined diner culture makes our job as preservationists/researchers/documentarians a bit tricky. That “bad” remodel of the 1970s was done in the same spirit as trading in your porcelain enamel clad ’30s O’Mahony for a stainless steel’50s Fodero. If you want to keep up in the business, you have to be on the cutting edge. There’s really a very interesting tension about it all.

I like diners because I like patterns. I’m a collector. I like comparing similar things to highlight their differences- it’s how I learn best. So give me diners- as many as you can. I love being able to piece together an idea of “original” from 10 different versions of the same era and builder of diner- all redone in some way or another over the years. I love the different characters physically identical places acquire. I love seeing how builders tried to one up each other. I love the creativity the came about in the designs from the restrictions of having to transport the diners.

I’m deep in my research of the now defunct hamburger chain, Little Tavern Shops, for mostly the same reason as my diner fascination.

I’m currently studying architecture at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada.

84 thoughts on “Who am I?

  1. Dinerman,

    Charming blog!

    While local history (at least here in North America – where we can’t afford to be too picky) lacks the romance and grandeur of military or political history, at least we can experience and live it firsthand.

    Will you expand your original vision to vintage restaurants, clubs, social institutions, etc.?

    I look forward to more photographs.

  2. If it’s old, cool, I have my camera, and remember to post it, you’ll see it here. I’m not picky. It’s all important in some way.

      • It was in Southern Maryland for a number of years. Last I heard it was in New York, but that was several years ago and my info at that time was shaky. I haven’t heard anything of it since that time. I had a very similar question the other day from a Robert P. Fischer. You may try contacting him to compare notes.

  3. Hi, I stumbled across your blog and I think the fact that your blog is specific to covering diners in Maryland gives you a good chance of being named a Top Local Blog by SearchMaryland.com.

    You should consider submitting it for the SearchMaryland.com Summer 2008 blog awards. Search Maryland is a Maryland-based directory of businesses, attractions, and professional organizations that is trying to build a list of good local blogs in Maryland.

    If selected as a winner, your blog appears on the Search Maryland website and you receive an award icon to place on your blog to celebrate your honor. Nominate your blog at http://www.searchmaryland.com/blogs/

  4. great blog, dinerman. i found it through fedora lounge.

    it’s a sad trend indeed, this disappearance of character from the commercial landscape.

    keep up the effort!

  5. I am enjoying your blog, especially the shots of my hometown Halifax. You should track down Sean Kelly, a Halifax part-time filmmaker who made a documentary about diners (it screened at the Atlantic Film Festival a while ago, maybe around 2000, give or take a few years). Film Fest people may be able to get you info on the doc.

  6. When will these iconic eateries start offering tofu and tempeh alternatives? They could draw in a whole new clientele with very little advertising, mostly just word-of-mouth in health conscious circles. Perhaps some of the reason they’re becoming obsolete is that more and more people are learning about decent nutrition. Responsive and vibrant businesses react to new trends, and so should diners.

  7. You’d be surprised. Many offer quite interesting, progressive menus. A few that stick out in my mind are the A-1 Diner in Gardiner, Maine, and Vermont’s Farmer’s diner.

    You’ll eat much better at nearly any diner than the fast food places that put them out of business.

  8. Hi Dinerman,

    We recently saved a 1947 Silk City Diner and moved it to Washington, DC. Do you have an e-mail address where I can contact you? Am looking for some information on other Silk City Diners.

    Many Thanks,

    Matt Ashburn
    Capital City Diner
    matt capitalcitydiner.com

  9. Oh, what a fun blog! I love diners and am in fact a regular breakfaster at the Laurel Silver Diner. It was a pleasure looking through your posts here.

  10. Hi there Spencer, love the pics of little taverns. My dad was a big fan of the one on Park Ave in downtown Baltimore! So, I have a question. Is this:

    http://maps.google.com/maps?f=q&source=s_q&hl=en&geocode=&q=2623+n+charles+baltimore&sll=39.361402,-76.644462&sspn=0.009307,0.022037&ie=UTF8&hq=&hnear=2623+N+Charles+St,+Baltimore,+Maryland+21218&ll=39.324007,-76.616979&spn=0,359.977963&t=h&z=16&layer=c&cbll=39.319167,-76.617078&panoid=zBOmLW6267myhbHFpct8AQ&cbp=12,77.39,,0,5.58

    a Little Tavern or what? I owned a house 2 doors up from this bldg from 1996-2000 and it was not an LT then. But could it have been at one time? That’s what I always thought, anyway.

    Best of luck hunting down this weird icon of a forgotten age. I appreciate your research–I’m into forgotten stuff too so take a look at my site, lots of abandonments from MD there. Thanks, please respond if you know about this LT!

    • Hi Claire! My name is Scott and I’m a Baltimore native. That building at 2623 North Charles does certainly appear to be a former Little tavern or restaurant of some sort. Believe it or not, in John Waters film, “Mondo Trasho” or is it “Multiple Maniacs”?, an entire scene takes place right at that corner. There is a bus stop there now and there was then too. Mary Vivian Pearce’s character waits right there and the building is visible. I am racking my brain to remember what the building is then. This would be about 1969.

  11. Good day to you, mine name is Martin and i life near to Amsterdam in Holland. I am a great fan of the original american diners. A friend of mine told me that you are ‘THE’diner hunter. Mine question for you is, if you ever came acros, in your traveling or study’s, the name gateway diner, it was situated in Phillipsburg P.A. near a cottonplant (so i am told)
    Do you know anything about this “silk city diner”?

    • It was actually located in Phillipsburg, NJ The Gateway Diner had been in storage for years along Route 22 in that town. It had been moved to the storage site after operating for years down the road. It had been replaced by a McDonalds restaurant. Two people moved the diner in the early 1980′s to London, England where they hoped to set it up as a restaurant. That never happened and it remained inside a storage warehouse for years. It eventually was moved to Germany (not sure where or what year). After that it ended up iin the Netherlands where it operates today. Silk City is the model name given to all the diners that were built by the Paterson Vehicle Company of Paterson, NJ (Paterson is known as the silk city).

  12. Hi Dinerman

    Got to your page via a Google-alert about Mel’s Diner in good old Lebanon, PA where I write for the Lebanon Daily News. I think that Eat Well diner on your page was in Myerstown, a few miles up the road.

    I’m saving your Website with the idea that I might do a story on you. Summer’s can be kind of slow so I’m always looking for something.

    • I bought and moved the Eat Well Diner to Elizaville, NY about 7 years ago. I am trying to trace its history and so far beleive the original owner was Gus Zeppo and the diner was always at that original location until I moved it. If this is true, i would love to know and also any other information you have of its past, especially older photographs. I can only supply you with new photographs and moving and restorations photos. It is currently open and very successful. I have almost completely restored it. You can contact me at ediner@mhcable.com or on our facebook page. Thank you!

  13. Nice site. You are interested in my Seio “Roll It” wool cap. I am very honored you appreciate it. It came from a famous PR marketing man in the early 50′s. Sounds like it is finding a good home. I like your blog. I also have some curling stuff, so keep posted. honey.jar

  14. Hi there. I’m attempting to find out more about Little Tavern, Washington No. 2. (3701 New Hampshire Ave.). You list it as being torn down and replaced by Sweet Mango. That isn’t correct. The original building is still there underneath some really bad additions. If one wanted to restore the original structure it would still be possible. Anyway, if you can share more information about this particular location it would be helpful to a project I’m working on.

    Thanks

  15. Dear Diner Hunter,
    We are the proud owners of an original Silk City Diner.
    We have reopend this diner in The Netherlands.
    It is vey difficult to find the correct information about our diner, we would like to know the real history of this diner, but we can not find it.
    They told us many stories, but we do not know what is the truth.
    Can you please help us. The story is that the GateWay Diner was situated in Phillipsburg Pennsylvania and was located at the gate of a cottonmill/factory.
    But we can not find anything about this. Maybe you know something or other people you know or which visits your website.
    Hope to find the real story about our dear dear friend, The GateWay Diner.
    Visit us at http://www.gatewaydiner.nl
    Thank you so much, hope to learn something.
    Martin & Nicki

  16. I stumbled across your website while looking for some diner info….I have a few bits that may be of interest to you…Oxford, PA has the ‘Miss Oxford Diner” which is very unmolested inside. The breakfast is awesome…and the owners “get it”. It was re-opened about ten years ago after having been abandoned for a couple…Should you decide to make the trip to Oxford, you may as well stop by the “Neptune Diner” in Lancaster….just across from the train station. The original section remais unmolested, but it does have a “modern air conditioned dining room” attached to the back serving as the non-smoking area. If you are interested in Little Tavern, you may be interested in the “Snow White Grill”…It was a local version with 3-4 locations, the original being in frederick. My understanding is that only the Winchester location remains. Both my father and uncle worked there while in high school….and have some great stories to tell.

  17. In Hfx look at the hrm archives for Morris lunch (24hrs @ Hollis & Morris),green lantern (ditto in WWII on Barrington street-3 floors but one was a diner), the diner at Morris & Birmingham (closed maybe 2000- now chinese food) and the Lohnes restaurant on Blowers (WWII centre). There were also the soda fountain places like Fader’s Drugstore (Coburg & Edward /Henry), & of course South End Lunch (Barrington St.).Readers Dig recommended Westcliffe as best priced in 2009.

  18. You mentioned your ancestor, sculptor Ira A. Correll. My Mom called him “Grampa” & I have a couple of his drawings & several photos of him taken by & with my Mom as well as photos of some of his work. According to my aunt, he was an in-law to my Aunt Mollie.

    • I am originally from Odon, IN. I met Ira A. Correll there on August 20, 1958, my 11th birthday. Mr. Correll gave me a sketch of a young boy as a birthday present. I believe Mr. Correll is originally from the Odon area.

      I have framed this sketch and will attempt to have it displayed in the Odon public library.

      • Mr. Bays- Thank you for your reply. Please let me know if the sketch does get displayed at the library – I’d love to see it. Do you have a contact # for them? The drawings I have hold sentimental value for me, but my husband suggested that possibly we should donate them to a public collection. How lucky you were to have met him! My Mom said he was a very nice man. I was trying to learn the family connection, but not had much luck so far. You can email us directly at phidi@comcast.net

  19. Mr. Stewart,

    I like your blog and really loved your bit about the White Oak bowling alley. That shopping center was the place my parents bought everything and where we as teenagers, hung out in the 70′s. You indicated you used to bowl there throughout the years. I was just curious as to what part of the White Oak area you lived in?

    • I was in four corners- used to shop at that Giant, eat at the pizza place next to the bowling alley and at Chef Theo’s and the Chinese place all the time. Moved to Olney, but kept bowling there, especially after they closed Tuffy Leeman’s on Georgia Ave. It’s really the only duckpin lanes in the area anymore.

  20. Dinerman,

    I wanted to ask you personally what you know about acquiring an old diner? Are they expensive, are good ones available or hard to find, and do you know of any specialty place that sells them or nice replicas?

    I am thinking about starting one and or restoring one. I’ve got a great location. I want to own an old diner!! :D

    Thank you.

    Ben,
    in Boston

  21. Love your photos! If you’re ever in eastern PA, the Lehigh Valley has some great diners! You’ll see a few of them on my blog – Breakfast in the Valley.

  22. Hi, I am the owner of The Elizaville Diner that I moved from Pa to rural NY. It was known as the Eatwell Family Restaurant in Pa. Your photos are great! We were so proud to see the diner chosen for the cover of the Diners of New York book. Even though the diner had some seriously hideous construction covering the diner while it was in Pa, the enclosure protected the original diner so that it was easy to restore to original condition. Much of what was stripped off of the front to reveal the original facade was caulked together and caused little damage to the front. The red mansard metal roof protected the original roof and gutter system so that only a rubberized coating was required. The original lighting was tucked up into the soffets. Inside, we found all the original stools in the basement in various piles of pieces in varying states of decay, but all were restored. Everything was restored to original except for the booth tables. I am missing one, and another needs repair, but then I intend on removing the current tables and replacing them with the originals and the the replica. It has been a great experience and hope others reading this blog may also try to save one of these rare pieces of Americana. If anyone wants help or more info or pictures of the diner’s restoration, feel free to contact me.

  23. Hi, Spencer, my name is Evalena. I was thrilled to find your diner blog! I’m an independent filmmaker currently location scouting for an old diner to feature in my upcoming film. If you are at all interested, I would love to talk with you in more detail, I would appreciate any advice you might have!

    You can reach me at sealedfilm@gmail.com. I look forward to talking with you, thank you!

    Evalena

  24. Howdy Diner Hunter…

    Just thought you might be interested to know that the former site of Wheaton, Maryland’s, Short Stop Diner on University Boulevard, is up for lease. For years now it was an outlet of “Irene’s Pupusa’s,” but I remember it as a wonderful, tiny diner. The gyro omelette with onion was a true work of art!

  25. Hi, I own the White Diner in Tamaqua, Pa. I love the site. Thank you for the nice pics and words. You and your father are always welcome.

  26. Hello

    I am currently working on restoring the Lemoyne Diner car #1104. I am hunting for a blue print of it’s interior some suppliers of material that I can us to replace the interior. You can email me at jbourdeau@rmauctions . I like your web page the photo’s are great for reference I will be sure to send you updates on our project if you are interested.

  27. Hi ,
    My name is Jack Ferguson Jr.

    My Father Jack Ferguson Sr. was the Manager at tavern 17 on connecticut Ave from 1960 until it was torn down in 1971.
    It was my first job, when I turned 16, working with my Father at Shop 17.
    Then I became a relief Manager and worked at most of the Taverns in N.W. DC Northern VA.
    and Bethesda MD, when the Managers vacationed or wanted a day off, until iI was 22.
    I knew Harry Duncan.
    He used to come into the Bethesda shop a lot when I would work there.
    His Chinese house boy would work the grill there most days at lunch to help out.
    Robert Trauger worked with my dad. I knew him also.
    M.r, Duncan also knew my Dad and respected him as one of his best Managers.
    My Dad started working for the Little Taverns in the 1950′s until he retired in the 80′s.
    Just wanted to update you with some info. I knew all the Supervisors and most of the Managers.

  28. Hey Spencer,

    We are open at The Hollywood Diner! we are making a lot of changes to restore the beauty of the diner. Please bare with us as we make these changes this month. Judging by the pictures, you stopped by when someone tried to break in the diner. We have had I bouts with vandalism , theft and break in’s. Please come by in February. Thanks

  29. Hello Spencer

    I’m about to post a blog on my website davidbstinsonauthor.com about the Stone Tavern Restaurant in Baltimore. I mention this because I reference your fine blog and your research about LT No. 4. Your passion for taverns is commendable and your photographs are first rate. A chapter in my book, Deadball, A Metaphysical Baseball Novel, takes place in the Stone Tavern. I always assumed that the Stone Tavern was once a Little Tavern and am glad to now have confirmation of that fact.

    Regards

    David Stinson

  30. As an Englishman, I’m fascinated by American Diners. Here in the UK we blow up americana to a point where it becomes Disney on steroids, and like the yanks who generally think we all live in castles, so we all think yanks portray excessiveness and bad taste as an art form, and yet we seem to replicate it badly and buy into it at the same time!

    Having been to some parts of America I am extremely proud of your food heritage, which is one thing that is respected in the USA. In the UK restaurants go out of business quickly, and there is no heritage of long term family run businesses like there is in the USA, and its this that interests me most.

    The simplicity of the food, the humble burger, hot dog are to me some of the best foods you can eat if done well. But I love the fact that food is celebrated through its heritage from immigrants. Don’t get me wrong, in the UK we have a wonderful array of cuisines, but I’ve yet to see a jewish restaurant thats been around for 200 years or more. Our pie & mash shops are dying out and a few bagel salt beef deli’s in East London still survive form the early 1920s and even the ‘greasy spoon’ cafe, which would be the UK equivalent to your diners are in decline now.

    I can see why you are archiving the experience of what was and hopefully still will be for the future, and hope that America does not just become a shopping mall of chain food culture, but can retain some of the things that made America great. Don’t knock it down and replace it, regenerate it and appreciate it for what it was, it can be great again!

    Here in the UK, some of our quaint towns and villages don’t allow McDonald’s, Kentucky Fried or any other chain that wants to destroy the fabric of our history and culture. Keep those places in the cities and malls where they belong. But somehow, some times town planners allow this depravity, and once its come it opens the floodgates.

    Long may we celebrate whats great about our food heritage, both in terms of what we eat and where we eat it!

  31. Thank you for your coverage and pictures of the Forest Diner in Ellicott City. Its closing has been a sad chapter in time around here, as it is the only diner my two sons have been to, alongside their Pop-pop (my dad). I hope that it survives elsewhere (preferably closeby) and doesn’t waste away in storage. Thanks again!

  32. hallo ,i just step on your side you collect diners and i try to build one up right now
    excuse my bad engl .i,m german .check out my side if its ready shool-bus-diner.com
    i will keep it update with pictures soon .brigitte

  33. Pingback: The Adaptive Reuse Of Little Taverns | Baltimore Or Less

  34. Hi Spencer,
    I love your work. I have been searching to purchase an old diner and re-furbish for Vancouver, BC. Any leads? I went to Dalhousie years ago. Great city, great school.
    Any contacts would be appreciated
    Ron

  35. Hi,

    My great grand-father founded the Paterson Vehicle Company which manufactured Silk City Diners. I find your blog to be a wonderful resource in that I am just beginning to start locating where all the Silk City Diners are located in the U.S. and abroad. I heard there is now one outside of Paris, France. In any regards, I would love to hear from you and should you have any list of where I might find some, it would be deeply appreciated. I have some pictures that you might find interesting. Please feel free to contact me at lescooper2000@hotmail.com; have a great day!

  36. I am a huge fan of the classic American diner…I am in search of a Paramount clock or 1940′s period correct style for a local diner that had a complete makeover.

  37. Hello, Spencer. My name is Carmen Desousa, bestselling author of romantic mysteries. I found an image of a diner I would love to use as a cover for my new story “The Pit Stop”, publishing next month. Of course I would add a link to your website inside for readers to click and visit your blog. Please email me with any other requirements if you are interested as soon as possible, as I am finishing the cover this week.

  38. Hello Spencer, My name is Robert Young and I was hoping if you could help me with a project.
    My parents met at The Little taverns in College Park, Md in 1962. My Dad worked there and my Mom was going to the College Park Beauty Academy. My Dad would pour my Mom a cup a coffee
    every morning and thats how they met. In December of 1963 My Dad at age 21 and My Mom age
    17 took a bus down to North Carolina and got married. In 1963 a 17 year old could get married
    with a parents consent. In May 26, 2010 we lost my Father. He was a devoted husband to my Mom for almost 47 years. Next December 16 would have been they 50th anniversary and I would love to give my Mom something special. Something that would bring a happy tear to her face and
    and because she can’t hold my father on that day. Maybe you could assist me in finding something she could. thank you

  39. Hi there, I am collector of diner / restaurant china and ephemera. I have examples from the Little Tavern, White Coffee Pot, Oriole Cafeterias and Toddle House. Really enjoy your blogs, keep up the good work. Thanks

  40. Hi, my name is Nancy and my husband, in the 60′s, was a manager for 3 Toddle Houses, Utica, NY, Trenton, NJ and New Haven Conn. I would love to be able to get in contact with some of the
    TH employees but do not know if such a list, or site, exists.

  41. I LOVE your blog! I spent many wee hours of the morning after a night of drinking in my late teens at the Toddle House in Elizabeth, NJ & noticed you do not have it included on your list. When it was demolished in the early 1980′s I managed to salvage quite a few of the pieces of glass from the Toddle House sign & it currently hangs proudly in our kitchen. If you like I could send you a photo – just send me your email!
    PHENOMENAL Site!
    Maureen from NJ

  42. I hope you don’t mind if we post some of these images from DC, especially the Little Tavern’s to the Old Time DC Facebook Page. It should be good for traffic to your site and the Old Time Page. Thank you so much.

  43. Does anyone know how to restore the baked enamel on a diner ? I have a worcester dining car that is in operation, but being damaged

  44. Hi! My name is Lindsey Smith and my family owned the Toddle House. I would love to know your sources as this is family history for me

  45. I took a picture for you today of the former Toddle House, 204 Reisterstown Road, Pikesville, MD; is their an email address I can send it to.

  46. This is a very interesting website! I frequented White Towers at 14th /I in d.c. 1960 , does anyone kmow where Adele ,my waitress , went after business closed ? Thank you for any info. from D.C. residents who might have eaten there…………..Gary

  47. Here are pics of the Cunard Diner. It was located across from the Cunard Piers (now Pier 90) on 12th ave NYC. My grandfather owned it in the 1940′s and sold it around 1953. According to my family , It was knocked down soon after and the Market Diner opened about 1 block from that location. As you can see , it was already an old looking structure when the photos were taken (around 1950) , so it must have been there quite a while. I can’t find much info on it , but I do have a complete silverware set stamped “Cunard Lines” that was given to my grandfather by a buddy of his who worked on one of the ships. Queen Elizabeth, Queen Mary & Mauritania were active at that time so I’m guessing it was one of those.

    Pics: http://s134.photobucket.com/user/raserx63/library/Cunard%20Diner

  48. Hello, I’m looking for a diner in the Washington, Pennsylvania area off Rt40 named Quitsie’s Motel and Restaurant Diner. I’m hoping maybe someone out there will have pictures of it. On the outside or the inside. Or even just stories about the place. U.S. Route 40 1/2 mile west of Washington, Pa. 1396 West Chestnut Street. There saying was * where Elite Meet & Eat * ” Quitsie” Your Host

  49. Hi Dinerman!

    Excellent site! I was curious to know if you had any knowledge of a diner that was located in Verga, New Jersey named Joe’s Diner No. 2. I found a brief mention of it on a blog site here: http://dinerhotline.wordpress.com/2012/06/06/memorial-day-roadtrip-1982/ I recall this diner when traveling along 295 through South Jersey. Great example for the period. I’m hoping it was moved and not razed.

    One other diner chain you have mentioned in my Washington DC area is the White Tower. There was a White Tower on the corner of Route 1 (Baltimore Bouleveard) and Queensbury Road where a Rite-Aid Pharmacy now stands. However I don’t see a reference to it on your site. Do you have any information regarding that White Tower? I recall it well and wish I had a photo to send you.

    Thanks!
    Natural Nick

  50. I love this blog! However, my daddy used to take me to the Toddle House in Mobile, AL on Springhill Ave. I loved it. I was only 4 yrs. old but I remember it so well. I would call it the Tootle House. I found a set of Toddle House glasses 6 yrs. ago at a yard sale and oh the memories! I’m going to soon list them on Ebay or put them in my antique booth. Bittersweet because the memories are still there.

  51. Great blog! I am trying to find out what happened to Bob’s Diner from Columbia, PA. Your blog showed that it was purchased by “Dan” in 1994 and being stored in southern MD but then said that it was (last post was 2010) in Queens, NY being restored. I tried Dan’s email address with no luck. Do you know where it is in Queens? Can you put me in touch with the present owner?

  52. Hello Spencer! My name is Alex Paleologos from New Bedford, Massachusetts. My family just sold their 1953 Jerry Omahoney about a week ago. I was reminicing on the place this week and came across your page. I too have an affinity for these stainless steel beauties. The Shawmut Diner has been a big part of our family and community fabric for 60 years and it will surely be missed. My parents decided to retire this year after 33 years of ownership. Good for them! ….but a loss for our community. My father, Phil, has a radio program on 1420AM here on the southcoast and would like to invite you on the program to discuss the importance of diners in American culture, past and present. Would you be interested? Yea or nea…either way, great site. Brought back alot of great memories.

    All my best,

    Alex

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