The Capitol Diner, Harrisburg, PA

The Capitol Diner, located at 615 N. Cameron Street, in the shadow of the State Street Bridge, opened on October 2, 1940. ┬áIt sat on a 10,000 square foot lot, roughly where the Goodwill donation is currently. The diner was built by the Jerry O’Mahony company of Elizabeth, New Jersey, and was originally owned by James S. Banford and Richard K. Enders. It had a brown paint scheme and sat 25, 17 at the counter and 8 at four deuce tables.

By the summer or 1941, directories list the lot as the site of a used car dealership, which it would remain for decades. It is unclear what became of the diner.

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Country Kitchen- Whitney Point, NY

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.
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The Harris Diner

The Harris Diner is an old homebuilt diner, located at 79 North Ave, Owego 13827. It replaced a Ward and Dickinson.
We stopped in for breakfast once, about five years ago, which is when these pictures are from. They really know the dying art of counter showmanship here. The breakfast was timed so perfectly that the toast was caught mid-air as it popped, just after the eggs finished on the griddle, as the plate made its way from behind the counter to in front of us.

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Diner Find: Peter’s Carry Out

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.
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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.

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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.
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The backbar gives insight into its history, but not its origin. Custom-Bilt National Toddle House, Inc.
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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.
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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.
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And here are some news stories from the late 1950s, mentioning it as a Toddle House.

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Peter’s Carry out has a website!
It’s located at 8017 Wisconsin Ave, Bethesda, MD 20814

Letterman’s Diner- Kutztown, PA

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.

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Inside view of the diner. Lots of later changes, but the tile work on the counter, the ceiling and the vent hood are original.

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It looks from this period photo, taken after the move, that a white painted flat ceiling was added, preserving the original wood barrel roofed ceiling underneath.
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Original window at the front of the diner. The other window has been removed to make way for a larger front door.

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The ceiling of the diner has this design painted where the seam trim of the ceiling (now missing) meet.
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Dan’s Diner of Spencertown, NY- same design.
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Vent hood
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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
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Letterman’s Diner @ Dine Indie

Letterman’s Diner MySpace

Pip’s Diner – Pittsburgh, PA

We visited Pip’s on the same trip, and after a few wrong turns and a little unplanned exploring, finally found it. It’s an interesting location, on a small road, directly under a bridge, across from some old industrial buildings. It has been remodeled inside and out, the exterior now covered with stone, and some of the windows filled in.

Pip’s is a ’20s model, of indeterminate manufacture, possibly Tierney, possibly O’Mahony, it’s difficult to say. It feels more like a social club than a diner, in that we were the only people in the place who were not regulars. Most times there is at least someone else who is either passing through, or a local who occasionally drops by. Not here, at least during out stay. Food was good, and cooked up on the grill behind the counter. We, unfortunately, missed the last of the hamburgers, we were told they were out of meat when we ordered, though while we waited for our food, the last couple patties were cooked up for regulars who came in several minutes after we got our food. I had the chili.

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An ad for a Tierney diner of the period, similar to what Pip’s would have looked like when new.
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Here’s the copy, which I typed up from my copy of that ad. Gives you a look into what was being pitched when the diner was new.
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No matter what your present occupation, or where you are located- if you have been seeking YOUR opportunity; if you have been anxious to get into business for yourself- to be your own Boss- or if you are in business and dissatisfied with its results; if you want to make more money than you ever made in your life- if you are willing to work and win success- then a Tierney diner is YOUR opportunity. It’s a clean, respectable PROFITABLE business for YOU- Every day in the year!

You would be one of the most independent men in your community. Your money would be turned over quickly. 30% – 40% of each days receipts would be your NET profit! You would have a strictly cash business. No bad accounts. No collections to make

The Dining Car business is spreading fast. Men like yourself, and with no more experience at the start, are getting rich in it. You can do it, too!

A Total capital of $3000 – will set you up in this business- provide the first payment on your car and leave enough to install it on location, open it up and start your daily receipts coming in- and many successful operators have done it on less.

YOU CAN START
The Dining Car Business in your own town.

The Tierney Real Estate Department checks up your location, or obtains one for you, thus assuring a proper business building location for your car.

We train you for success, just as we have trained hundreds of other operators of Tierney Diners.

You can take advantage of our Training School, if you desire.

Tierney service helps you in all details of operation, providing reliable and experienced chefs, and other employees, if desired, and supervises and guides your management, if needed, until you are sufficiently experienced to assure success by yourself.

no Tierney Dining Car located and operated in accordance with Tierney Service and Instruction need ever fail, for when you purchase a Tierney Diner you get back of you thirty years of successful experience in this business.

Tierney Service makes Monthly Payment Plan possible. The Lunch Car business is essentially a worker’s business. It has not been built up by capitalists, although it has created capital for its operators- but has won out through the energy and close attention to business of men who with a small amount of money to start with have followed up that moderate capital with an unlimited supply of conscientious, faithful work. That is what makes the Lunch Car business such a sound, dependable business to be engaged in; it is built on foundations of individual industry and common honesty.

“Fully ninety-five per cent of the hundreds who have won success and independence in this business have started with very little money, so the plan had to be devised to help these men get there cars as well as stand by them until they had made a success of the business. In other words, after you have made your first payment down, the car will pay the balance.”

Wherever you see a Tierney dining car you will find a man who is making money.

This portable restaurant is delivered on its own wheels to its permanent location, where connections are made for water, sewer, gas or electricity

Just the Way they look inside: Tiled floors and walls, stool porcelain, oak tops with nickel rim, counters marble or black walnut. Back of counter complete kitchen, tiled ice box, equipped with most modern type of range, short order stove; steam table, nickeled coffee urns, hot water heater. The last word in brightness and cleanliness.

If YOU owned a Tierney Dining Car like this, $5000 to $10000 should be your YEARLY PROFITS