The Diner Project – The classic diners are unique American creations that embody many of the themes of the American experience. They are symbols of entrepreneurship – offering the promise to immigrants and blue collar workers that by buying and running a diner they could own their own businesses and be their own boss. They are symbols of an era marked by optimism for the future, with diners clad in sleek art deco-style stainless steel exteriors, roadside messages of futuristic style and design. They show us the growing role of women in public society, as the signs for “booth service” let women know that they were welcome at this diner, where the booth seating was “more appropriate” than stools at the counter for women and families. And one more reason to photograph diners – a person has to eat while on a walkabout.
Click on the photo for each diner to see the full gallery for that diner.
Boulevard (Worcester, MA) – This diner is Worcester Lunch Car Company No. 730, from 1937, and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It still has the original oak and gumwood interior, and the ambiance is authentic – no Elvis kitch here.
Casey's (Natick, MA) – This diner is owned and operated by the fourth generation of the same family that has owned Casey’s Diner since 1887, when it was a four-stool, horse-drawn diner car. Pat’s great-grandfather purchased this diner in 1926. It is one of the smallest Worcester Lunch Car diners – only 10½ feet wide and 20½ feet long with ten stools and no booths, and is listed in the National Register of Historic Places. Casey’s doesn’t serve breakfast or dinner – but it has a well-deserved reputation for its excellent hot dogs. I was sitting at the counter one day when a fellow, clearly down on his luck, walked up to the side window to buy a hot dog. As he counted out his change, it was clear that a hot dog was going to take the last of his money. Pat put two on the plate and told him to pay another day when he had the money. Grandpa would be proud of his boy.
Rosebud (Somerville, MA) – The full bar in place of the behind-the-counter grill and kitchen area is a bit jarring to diner purists, but the neighborhood atmosphere and classic diner food help to re-establish the credentials of the Rosebud. This is Worcester Lunch Car Company No. 773. This streamlined-style diner car was built in 1941, converted to a bar/lounge in 1957, converted to a Tex-Mex restaurant in the early 1990s, and restored to a diner in the late 1990s. It is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Miss Florence (Northampton, MA) – The Florence Diner is like the bar in "Cheers" without the liquor license - everybody knows your name. This is a genuine neighborhood diner with friendly waitresses, and it even offers Cherry Coke. The Miss Florence Diner is Worcester Lunch Car Company No. 775, built in 1941, authentically renovated in 2002 (no Elvis kitsch here!), and listed on the National Register of Historic Places.