July 2012 Pennsylvania Diner Trip

The Prospect Diner has become our go to breakfast stop ever since it was taken over by Mike Conroy. It has become everything a diner should be. It’s a classic mid 1950s Kullman, a model transitioning into the space age. I think my first stop there was when I was about five years old, so you could say it’s been a tradition for a while. Every time we’ve been in, the diner is full of locals- always a good sign. The food is good, plentiful and inexpensive. I had chicken and biscuits, topped with sausage gravy. Side of (perfectly done) home fries, and coffee which, thanks to expert waitressing, never dipped beyond half empty.
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We traveled on from Columbia to Lancaster, passing the Columbia Diner, at 1725 Columbia Ave Lancaster, PA. It’s a remodeled ’50s Kullman, known as the Wheatland Diner from 1955 to 1973.
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Directly next door to the Columbia diner is this old McDonalds golden arch.
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A Frame. Bright’s Restaurant.
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Highlights of Ephrata, PA
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The main event, a meet up with Michael Engle and Glenn Wells at the Cloister Diner. The Cloister is a 1952 Silk City. It was remodeled in the 1960s. The end wall was removed to open the diner up to a dining room addition. The tile in the addition flows very nicely from the diner itself. Panels from the end wall were moved to replace the front door, which was also removed in the remodel. The original neon was kept on the roof during the remodeling, really the only hint from the exterior of what lies inside.

We were lucky enough to chat with the truly inspiring Elva Stauffer, the owner of the diner since 1972.
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Fresh homemade peach pie. It’s as good as it looks, believe me.
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With Glenn and Michael.
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The Forest Diner – A Final Farewell

The official notification hanging in the diner:

Deal Loyal Forest Diner Patrons,
After 66 years of serving the finest food in Howard County, the Forest Diner will be opening our doors for the last time on Monday, May 28. We would like to thank everyone who has allowed us to become part of their lives over the years. It has been our pleasure to serve each and every one of you.
While the Diner will be closing, we have partnered with Jilly’s Bar and Grill, which is right across the street in the Enchanted Forest Shopping Center, to continue the tradition of fine food and service that you have come to expect from us. So what does that mean? Quite simply, this means the Forest Diner without the dining car.
Starting on may 29, Jilly’s will be open at 6am to serve you. You will be able to get the same food as the Forest Diner, prepared and served by the Forest Diner staff, for the same price. The management team at Jilly’s is looking forward to exceeding your expectations for breakfast and lunch.
As part of their commitment to you, we would like for you to write your name and contact information in the notebook located by the register. Jilly’s is in the process of making a Diner Loyalty Card, which will entitle our loyal customers to receive special deals at Jilly’s.
Once again, thank you for being part of our family over the years. And while we will miss the dining car, we do hope to see you at our new home at Jilly’s.
Truly yours,
The Staff of the Forest Diner

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Over the years, the Forest Diner has become entirely encased in later renovation, leaving the Silk City unrecognizable from the street.

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neon sign

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Inside, however, the original diner is in extremely good condition, having been protected from the elements for decades.

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Inside

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The diner is Silk City 5076, meaning it was the 76th diner built by Silk City in 1950. It was originally known as Gearhart’s Diner and was opened by a Bob Gearhart. It was sold in 1957 to William Carl Childress and was renamed the Forest Diner. He operated it until his death in 1998.
I’m not sure where the 1946 date that the diner and the news stories have been using comes from. I suppose this could have been a replacement for an earlier diner, bought either new or secondhand. I need to do some digging.

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Waitress Ellen Jackson in the diner.

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Neon with the Enchanted Forest in the background. The Enchanted forest was supposedly the nation’s second theme park, opening just after Disney.

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Soft stuff is also closing with the diner

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Directly next door to the Forest Diner- a Kullman which opened in 1998 as the Princess diner and was bought out a bit later by the Double T diner chain. There was a lot of head scratching in ’98 as to why they would open a diner next to another diner, and speculation as to its effect on the Forest diner’s business.

More stories on the closing
http://www.newspapersites.net/newspaper/howard-county-times.asp
http://ellicottcity.patch.com/articles/farewell-forest-diner
http://articles.baltimoresun.com/1998-10-27/news/1998300064_1_forest-diner-parlette-forest-owner

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.

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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.

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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

Pushnik’s Diner/ Marabelle’s Restaurant – Lebanon, PA

We visited the former Pushnik’s Diner/ D’Alexander’s during a period between 2003 and 2006 when it was operating as the Horn & Horn diner. It was built in 1960 by the Fodero diner company and replaced an early model Silk City which had previously been on the site. It re-opened on Monday as Marabelle’s Restaurant. The full news story can be read HERE
Their new website is marabelles.com

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Waterfall Rooms.

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gold and stainless

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Lightbulb Sputnik

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Excellent 1960 space age styling. Quilted stainless, bold thin, outwardly canted supports, flared roof edge, recessed spotlights.

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The original Patterson Vehicle Company built Silk City diner.