Here’s an interesting photo from my collection that I picked up in Gallatin Gateway last year. A bit of research reveals Livingston as the location. Looks like these folks had quite the road trip, 32,000 miles on a set of tires, down at least as far as Tijuana and back. I’d love to know the stores. Looks like about a 1925 Olds. If you have more info on the exact year and model, please let me know in the comments!
Thompson’s Diner opened in 1929 at 209 East Main Street, Salisbury, Maryland. The barrel roofed diner was bought by Jack English in either 1934 or 1936, depending on the source, and was the first of what was to be a diner empire on the Eastern Shore.
According to a 1967 article in the Salisbury Daily Times, “Mr. English, a Riverton farm boy who attended business college here by hose and buggy. . . worked in canneries, for Victor Talking Machine in Camden, NJ, and starting as an order boy for the American Stores Co. he became manager of the Philadelphia store, later becoming general manager of the New Jersey Area.
In the 1930s, the old 36 barrel roof was traded in on a large L-shaped double monitor roof graft, then again for an L shaped c.1947 O’Mahony “arrow” style diner. With its dining room addition, this diner sat 200. The diner survived long enough to make it into the guide in the back of Richard Gutman’s “American Diner Then and Now”, but has since been replaced with a mansard roofed brick office. It appears that part of the dining room or kitchen still stands.A big thanks to Ed Engel for bringing the 1960s article to my attention. I’ve been searching for info to fill the gaps on the English Diner chain for years!
A Brill Steel Diner arrived in Harrisburg, PA on July 1, 1929 from the factory in Springfield, MA. Its installation was supervised by Robert H. Lewis of the J.G. Brill Co., who had been in Harrisburg on a sales trip in March of 1929. It was originally set up at 329 Walnut Street and cost $12,500. The diner was owned by Robert B. Brown of 259 Seneca Street, who had previously owned diners in Philadelphia. He operated the diner from 1929 until his suicide in 1933. His widow, Gertrude Brown, took over the diner and ran it until 1940, when the YMCA expanded their building onto the site and the diner was forced to move.
The newspapers and directories have a bit of confusion about the name. 1929, 1930, 1931 have it listed as the DeLuxe Diner. 1930 has the DeLite Diner at 239 Walnut. In 1933, the DeLite diner shows up at 325 Walnut Street, listed in the directory alongside the DeLuxe, still at 329 Walnut. Later, the DeLuxe Disappears from the listings and the DeLite begins to be listed at 329. Articles about the removal of the diner for the YMCA expansion alternately refer to it as the DeLuxe and the DeLite. “Deluxe” was a standard name for Brill Diners of the period.
Haussner’s opened in 1926 and served its last meal in 1999. My matchbook from it advertises its Bavarian Rathskeller and Haussner’s Bavarian Orchestra. The restaurant was famous for its art collection, which sold at auction after the restaurant closed for ten million dollars. As luck would have it, I spent the day a block down from Haussner’s at the Maryland Traditions Folklife Festival, so I took some pictures of the building.
I can’t find my picture of the front side of this diner. It’s a ’50s stainless home-built. Not much to look at inside. Pic. I think the back side is more interesting- there’s an old barrel roof hiding behind, acting as the kitchen.
You would never know to look at it from the street. For years I’ve been going to Potter’s and Weaver’s violin shop, which share a back parking lot with Peter’s. For years I’ve been going to the Tastee just a few blocks away, and I’ve stood under the awning of Peter’s to shield my camera from glare while taking pictures of the former Little Tavern located right across the street. But for whatever reason, I’ve never looked inside.
But sure enough, back in behind the facade of this little shopping strip lies a surprise. A long row of stools and a barrel roof. Whereas all the other buildings in this strip have basements, Peter’s does not. The barrel roof visible on the inside of the diner, is finished for exterior use on the top side, in a space which is now an attic, with the long ago addition of a flat roof, flush with the rest of the businesses on that street. Google satellite photos show a clear seam on either side of Peter’s. All that confirms that Peter’s was not built on site, but was something “other” from the fabric of the streetscape, brought in from somewhere else and set up.
Now let’s take a look at the building itself. Old newspaper articles talk about Maryland being a haven for streetcar-turned-diner conversions in the depression era. Most disappeared as soon as the owners were able to scrape together enough money to buy a proper factory built diner. Take the fomer State Diner in Baltimore, for example, which was a trolley diner until it was replaced with the current secondhand 1930s Silk City in the early 1950s (the Silk City was the original Laurel Diner- now the Tastee). Here’s another interesting Maryland trolley to diner conversion.
With a trolley conversion, like the White Diner or the Crossroads Dinor you would expect to find curved ends. While the original front wall of Peter’s has been punched out to allow more light from the storefront and more seating, it’s clear that the end walls (the one in back as well) are flat, but with curved corners, which makes me think it is far more likely that this was a factory built-purpose built diner.
The ends of the diner have a curve running perpendicular to that of the main barrel, similar to a Silk City roof, not like, say, a ’20s O’Mahony or Tierney. The roof has a distinctive profile- not a smooth curve, but one that has steeper slopes on the sides and a flatter roof. The closest thing I can think of with this particular roofline is a very early, narrow Silk City model. A surviving example would be the West Shore Diner. There is also an abandoned diner of this Silk City model in Montana (formerly Gordy’s) and the Miss Jersey City diner, now long gone.
Here is a picture of the interior of the West Shore for comparison. The Silk City is wider, but the similarities in the barrel roof are notable. Same profile, same curve at the ends. With all the years of modification and renovation at Peter’s, though, the definition of the barrel profile could have been somewhat lost, making real identification difficult. The shape, though, is undeniably that of a diner.
The patent numbers, from 1933 and 1934, correspond to the backbar equipment which was found in all Toddle House restaurants at the time. And sure enough, this building had a long stretch operating as a Toddle House.
Toddle House was yet another diner-concept early fast food place, similar in its early days to White Tower, Little Tavern, etc. Like Little Tavern, they used a very small tudor cottage style building. While Little Tavern had the counter oriented perpendicular to the front facade, Toddle House had theirs, diner style, parallel to the front. So for a restaurant which was just stools and a grill, it’s easy to understand why, and how they would take over a barrel roof diner like this. It also means that the first of many renovations, disguising the diner’s true origins, took place 75 years ago, when the diner itself was still relatively new.
And here are some news stories from the late 1950s, mentioning it as a Toddle House.
Peter’s Carry out has a website!
It’s located at 8017 Wisconsin Ave, Bethesda, MD 20814
By 1931, the Tudor Cottage Design had been adopted
In 1937, it was updated with a bit more of a moderne syle
And a later, simplified design. What I’ve found on this one points to a date of construction in 1974
This one was found in Silver Spring, Maryland until relatively recently. When it was torn down, it had been painted yellow and was operating as a Chinese restaurant.
We stopped here this morning for a second breakfast, a “short” stack of pancakes and a side of bacon for me, an order of eggs, bacon, homefries for my dad. My short stack turned out to be two excellent pancakes the size of platters, which even I couldn’t finish. The bacon was tasty, the coffee fresh, and the grillmanship exciting.
Outside view of the diner. Though an angled front facade has been added, the complete barrel roof is still visible. You can see where the original front sliding door once was.
Inside view of the diner. Lots of later changes, but the tile work on the counter, the ceiling and the vent hood are original.
Original window at the front of the diner. The other window has been removed to make way for a larger front door.
The owners of the diner say that this is the nation’s oldest Silk City, built in the very early 1930s. Can anyone confirm Silk City as the builder?
Manufacturer of the diner has been confirmed as a O’Mahony.
Compare to this interior photo of Dan’s Diner of Spencertown, NY. Same vent hood, same sliding door (though the Kutztown one’s is gone, it’s visible in the old photos, and the doublewide delete on the wall), and the same ornamentation on the ceiling