The Club Diner was built by the Jerry O’Mahony Dining Car Company and opened on May 22, 1939. Its original owner was Harry H. Schell. The Club Diner is still in business, at 319 S 17th St, Harrisburg, PA. I’ve driven by several times, but never been inside, so I’m unclear whether the current diner is a greatly remodeled O’Mahony Monarch, or if it’s a later replacement. If anyone has interior shots, I’d love to see them.
The City Line Diner was located at 1946 Paxton Street, Harrisburg, PA. It was built by the Jerry O’Mahony Dining Car Company, and opened on October 25, 1940. It was originally owned by C.H. Wertz Jr. The diner sat 36, 22 at stools, and another 24 at six booths. It was painted the usual 1930s-1940s color scheme of white and green.
According to an article from the opening, at the time of its construction, this was one of the widest diners in Pennsylvania, which necessitated that its transport from New Jersey be entirely by truck, instead of the usual rail transport. Police had to close roads for its transportation, as it took up both lanes of the two lane highways upon which it traveled.
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
Some more from the archives, in no particular order.
Short Stop Diner, now Irene’s pupusas. Wheaton, MD
It’s a 1956 Kullman. The neon was nearly as big as the diner itself, but has since disappeared.
Diner- Front Royal, VA
It’s a 1956 Mountain View. Front Royal used to be a hotbed of diners. It had this one, Nick’s Good Food diner, the Do-nut dinette, and another ’50s stainless model. The other three have been knocked down, and this one’s now a used car dealer.
Frost Diner- Warrenton, VA
The Frost is a 1955 O’Mahony.
Tastee Diner- Silver Spring, MD
Tastee Diner- Laurel, MD
a rare Comac brand diner
Bud’s Broiler – New Orleans, LA
Summit Diner– Somerset, PA
Moody’s Diner- Waldoboro, ME
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
This was my first real diner trip in a while. I met up today with Mike Engle, author of Diners of New York; the man behind NYdiners.com, and roadside buff and frequent Zippy the Pinhead contributor Ed Engel at the American City Diner, and headed out from there.
The first stop of the day was the American City Diner of 5532 Connecticut Ave NW Washington, DC. It’s a late ’80s Kullman, one of the early retro-styled diners, and one of the ones that did it right. For some photos as it appeared when new, click here. Since then, it’s been added on to, with a large side addition, and a front porch which obscures everything to the left of the vestibule.
The now abandoned Wonderbread / Hostess Factory
Ran into a little excitement along the way between these two stops, but all’s well that ends well.
We hit up the Capital City Diner, which was moved here on the 20th. Watch the video of it being moved. This Silk City, formerly of Avoca New York, has made its way to the Trinidad neighborhood of Northeast DC.
Photos at its original location and some backstory can be found at :A Real Historic Diner Coming to DC!
This next leg of the trip had some neat neon and signage
Hyattsville Hardware / Franklin’s
A quick stop at the Silver Spring Tastee was made.
More old photos can be found here.
Then a side trip to Forest Glen, parts of which have deteriorated greatly since my last visit.
And the trip’s final stop at Bethesda’s former Little Tavern. A 1990 photo of it, when it was still a Little Tavern, can be found on the Diner Hotline.
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I thought this would tie in nicely with my previous post. The bridgeville is a ’40s O’Mahony, a particularly large model, featuring a striped red and blue enamel and stainless exterior, with blue upper windows. I like the diagonally ribbed tile on the interior, but I’m not sure if it’s original, I’ve never seen it before. This diner is very similar to the recently restored Road Island Diner, though this one has five bands of color, while the road island has four. This exterior is a nice transition from the fully enameled exteriors shown in the previous post to the later fully stainless ones.