Thursday, February 14, 2008

Resurrecting Louis' Diner - Worcester Diner # 708

This 60x14 ft. diner was is Worcester Lunch Car # 708 the former Louis' Diner of Concord, NH. & Rich's Annex Diner of Newburyport, MA.
Roadside Sign from Louis' Diner When the diner was open in Concord, N.H.

Concord Monitor. Concord N.H.
Resurrecting Louis' Diner
Onetime local hangout could live again - to the south
By RAY DUCKLER Monitor staff

Remember the sounds and smells of Louis' Diner? Breakfast with the family on Sunday morning, forks scraping up scrambled eggs. Maybe breakfast or a burger after midnight, your table a bit loud after, uh, a drink or two. Or maybe a simple cup of coffee, a sandwich and the newspaper, about noon.
Louis' still lives, and it'll be back in circulation, probably in 2009. The old-school diner, which sat near the junction of Route 3 and Airport Road, just before the speed limit increased from 30 to 50 mph as you drove from downtown to Pembroke, will be rebuilt in Cranston, home of the Rhode Island Training School for Youth.
The detention center houses some tough cookies from the Providence area, teens who've sold cocaine, stolen cars, even committed murder.
Nearby Providence is home to the American Diner Museum - yes, one exists - which rescues old diners from demolition and sometimes restores them. The museum and the training school began working together more than a year ago on a project to rebuild diners while helping these kids develop a skill, to be used later in life.
They'll learn to build, to cook, to run a business, while grasping concepts of discipline and responsibility. Two old New England diners sit on the grounds of the training school. Louis' is out front, near the electronic main gate. The "residents," as they're called, will begin working on it in the spring. Until then, it will sit quietly, up on wooden cylinders, stacked like Lincoln Logs, with old gutters on the floor inside and paint chipping on the outside.
"There's elegance to Louis' Diner, and sometimes it sounds funny using the word elegance and diner at the same time," said John Scott, the training school's community liaison. "But Louis' Diner was actually a rather elegant diner on the inside, a real old-school diner. We've been reaching out to some local restaurateurs who would consider being an operator of a diner of that magnitude."
Louis' has a long history, both clean and dirty. It opened in Newburyport, Mass., in 1932, as Rich's Diner, built by the Worcester Lunch Car Co. Business was so good that owner Herman Rich asked Worcester to nearly double the size of the slender, railroad-style dining car.
Rich's Annex Diner opened soon after. Too bad Rich was in the slammer by time it was completed, busted for rum-running in 1932, during the final stages of Prohibition. He served two years in a penitentiary in Atlanta.
Rich eventually moved his diner to the Wonderland Dog Track in Revere, Mass., in 1936. A year later, he sold it to Charles "Mac" Andrews, who already owned a pizza place, now United Shoe Repair, next door to the run-down and abandoned downtown theater.
Andrews moved it to Concord in 1937, before selling it to Louis Kontos in '41.
Louis' was born.

Not Louie's.
"There was a huge French-Canadian population," said Daniel Zilka, the executive director of the American Diner Museum. "That's where the pronunciation came from, I guess."
Louis' was later sold in the 1980s and retained its name. One of its owners was arrested in 1996 for distributing cocaine from the diner.
The Concord institution's ride ended in 1999, when it closed after the owners defaulted on the mortgage and didn't pay water, sewer or real estate taxes.
The Merchants Nissan Car dealership across the street purchased the diner to expand its car display space. Thankfully, Louis' was donated to the American Diner Museum and trucked down to Rhode Island.
Louis' is the lone diner on the Save America's Treasure list. It's the largest existing diner built by the Worcester Lunch Car Co.
And now this tasty nugget from our history sits alone in front of a fence, waiting for a facelift while ghosts from a state capital 2½ hours away eat and chat.
The building is structurally sound, with shingles from the 1930s still visible from the outside. The green paint is cracked and chipped. The entrance is on the end, with seven wooden steps leading inside.
There, the colors on the tiled floor are faded. The booths are gone, as are the seats that once twirled in front of the counter. Only four thick metal polls remain, formerly the foundations for the stools. The cooking necessities behind the counter, storage compartments and skillets, are still there, broken apart. The ceiling needs to be redone.
Many of the old components from the Louis' as we knew it remain, stored in a warehouse 25 miles away. There's the famous sign, the windows, the booths. New hat racks will be needed.
The teens begin remodeling this spring. Work should take a year. The goal is to keep the diner in the Providence area, with a new name, The New Hope Diner.
"Vintage diners that have been cast aside, like this one here, would have been demolished if not donated to us," Zilka said. "And it's a reflection on the kids that come here. They're neglected kids or they come from broken families or one of their parents is in prison. They have another possibility to get it right." So does Louis'. Good luck, old friend.

American Diner Museum

P.O.Box 6022 Providence, Rhode Island 02940, United States
WWW.AMERICANDINERMUSEUM.ORG - American Diner Museum a member of the New Hope Alliance is a Federally recognized 501(c)3 nonprofit corporation and all donations may be tax deductible. The Museum will provide the necessary documentation for tax purposes. However, an appraisal of non monetary gifts will be the responsibility of the donor.