ID these Little Taverns

I found these today in a box of other prints at an antique shop in Havre de Grace, Maryland. From the residue on the one print, it looks like they were originally from a sign company, mocking up billboards. It’s at the same time unfortunate, and extremely exciting to me that despite years of research, both archival and out on the road, these two locations are both unfamiliar to me.

There’s just enough context in them that it seems like one of you out there will be able to ID them.

The sign on the building to the left reads, “Joker’s Inn”, and it looks like the building to the left of that is a cleaners. The quality of the picture is just iffy enough that I can’t make out the street sign. It looks like a numbered street, though. The shot’s late 1960s.

EDIT: This Little Tavern has been ID’ed as Washington No. 26, Good Hope Road.

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Another one, also late ’60s, with a partial LT. With the bridge¬†and the stacks, I would think this one would be easier to ID.

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The College Park Little Tavern

The Little Tavern at 7413 Baltimore Ave College Park, MD, was built around 1940 (some sources say 1938, others 1941. Little Tavern Shops started their expansion into Maryland suburbs in the late 1930s), and is slated to come down very soon.

The College Park LT in the late 1940s, on the far left.
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In the 1970s. Little Tavern fed hungry Terps for more than half a century.
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After Little Tavern went out of business in the early 1990s (read about the life and death of the Little Tavern chain on some of the other posts on this blog), the building operated as a Toddle House, the Philadelphia Cheesecake Factory, Curry Express and JD’s Roadhouse Barbecue. It has been vacant nearly a decade.

As of 2011, the awning still showed signs of its stint in the early 1990s as a Toddle House. The Little Tavern’s architecture suited Toddle House, whose early buildings were a similar cottage style. Their buildings later grew- the current College Park Diner, down Rt. 1, was originally a 1960s Toddle House.
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The interior of the building suffered through the tenant changes of 1990s and 2000s, with the original tilework, custom built Monel backbar, stools and counters being replaced with whatever was cheapest from the hardware store.
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Now, with rapid development of the historic district of College Park, and ownership of the land by the University of Maryland, the historic structure will be demolished to make way for a “pocket park” with parking for food trucks.
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Little Tavern Stools

Today was a big day for my Little Tavern collection. I picked up four new mugs, and eight stools. Three of the mugs are Jackson, one is Shenango. Four of the stools are from Washington No. 9 (1932, 5100 Georgia Ave NW) and four from Washington No. 15 (1936, 1200 Good Hope Rd SE).




Buy ‘Em By The Bag

Little Tavern’s slogan used to be “Buy ‘Em By The Bag”.
I did, and I brought them back to the studio for some product shots. Mug is ’50s vintage.

The burgers came from the Laurel Tavern, formerly the Laurel location of the Little Tavern. They tracked down the original burger recipe and are still selling them, along with some really good fresh donuts. If you miss Little Tavern, take the trip, you won’t be disappointed. The building has lost its paneling, its neon and its interior, but they still deliver in the food department.

Laurel Tavern Donuts
115 Washington Boulevard Laurel, MD 20707

White Coffee Pot Restaurants – Baltimore, MD

This matchbook is from the Baltimore chain of White Coffee Pot restaurants. They operated in the Baltimore area from 1932 through to 1993. At one time, they had 33 locations. They’re all gone now, but at one time, they were all over Baltimore. They’ve come up a fair bit in my Little Tavern research, but I haven’t done any dedicated research into them directly as to their full history or locations.




The Laurel Diner – Laurel, MD

The Laurel Diner opened c.1934. It originally operated in an early Silk City, with an unusual end-door setup. C. 1951/1952, this Silk City was moved to Baltimore to replace an old converted trolley diner. The Silk City was replaced with a brand new Comac Diner.

Like Outrider’s Diner, just down the road, the Laurel Diner was part diner, part bar. It looks like the Laurel also had an off-licence, as it advertised itself as a liquor store as well. It also owned a small two story brick motel, adjoining the diner.


The diner acquired metal awnings in the 1980s. By that point, the neon “Chops” had been Changed to “Pizza”, and signage for the motel had been added. Also take note of the name change. It is still doing business as part of the local “Tastee Diner” chain. The large double signs have recently been repainted, but over the years, have lost all the sub-signage. Note the Little Tavern in the background of the night-shot.


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.

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 backbar gives insight into its history, but not its origin. Custom-Bilt National Toddle House, Inc.

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

Beatlemania by the bag

Beatlemania meets Little Tavern Shops

February 15, 1965
Just for Laughs- Four Countermen at a sandwich shop put on Beatle Wigs yesterday. From left they are Charles LeBron, Efford Anderson, Robert Bonsall and Ronnie Barler.


Here’s a little context for you.

February 7: The Beatles arrive at Kennedy Airport in New York
February 9: The Beatles make their first appearance on CBS television’s “Ed Sullivan Show” in New York.
February 11: The Beatles make their first live concert appearance in the US at the Coliseum in Washington, DC., drawing an audience of 20,000 fans. February 12: The band gives two concert performances at Carnegie Hall in New York City.
February 13: 6.00pm This was The Beatles’ only visit to Baltimore. They performed two shows at the Civic Center, to a total of 28,000 fans. The support acts were The Bill Black Combo, The Exciters, Clarence ‘Frogman’ Henry, and Jackie DeShannon.

Here’s John before the Show.

Little Tavern Washington No. 22

While doing research at the Madison building of the Library of Congress, I happened across this picture, taken c.1940 of a Little Tavern located at 33-1/2 Independence Ave (more or less), which is the same location as the building in which I was doing my research. Construction started on the James Madison Memorial building in 1971.
Great picture of a Little Tavern. I find it interesting that it appears there is no signage. I would guess this was taken before it opened?
I also love the building next door and the dark colored vitrolite (or maybe its enamel) that wraps the entire lot and the building next door.