Jun 1, 2008
Sherwood's Diner may return to join visitor center complex'50s landmark on Foster St.
By Thomas Caywood
TELEGRAM & GAZETTE STAFF
WORCESTER— The hard-knocks journey of Sherwood's Diner from its heyday on Foster Street in the 1950s to mothballs to a Rhode Island juvenile detention center may eventually lead back to the city.
The Worcester Historical Museum is evaluating a proposal to set up and operate the diner - once it's restored as part of training program for at-risk teens in Rhode Island - at the visitor center and history museum complex planned for the area of the junction of the Massachusetts Turnpike and the recently completed Route 146 extension into the city.
"This is a very significant offer, and we're taking it very seriously," said William D. Wallace, the museum's executive director.
The planned new museum and Worcester visitor center, part of the $300 million Route 146 project, is slated for the old Washburn & Moen factory.
Project planners and architects still must weigh in on the idea of incorporating the historic diner into the visitor center and museum, and a deal with an outside vendor would have to be worked out to operate the eatery, Mr. Wallace said.
"I think it's an exciting idea, but we're still a long way from decision time." He plans to go see the restoration effort himself tomorrow.
Sherwood's was a Foster Street fixture for two decades until it closed in 1969. In the years that followed, the diner was put in storage, moved to Auburn to become an ice cream parlor, closed again, vandalized, picked over for souvenirs, left to rot for a decade, and eventually preserved. Finally, in 1999 it was mothballed by the American Diner Museum in Providence.
The Worcester landmark got a second chance at a useful life three years ago when a Rhode Island correction officer came up with a plan to teach job skills to young people locked up for delinquency by restoring old diners to their former condition. Officials at the American Diner Museum in Providence got involved, and Sherwood's was one of the dilapidated lunch cars selected for the program.
The roughly $80,000 project began this spring at the Rhode Island Training School in Cranston. The youths working on the project are part of a vocational program of the Juvenile Correction Division of the Rhode Island Department of Children, Youth and Families.
Sherwood's was built by the Worcester Lunch Car Co. in 1940, and was operated in Medford for about 10 years before being moved to Worcester. Before the restoration began, the diner museum had had Sherwood's in storage. One of the other diners in line to be restored at the school is the former Mugsy's, which served up chow on Chandler Street in Worcester under different names until the early 1990s.
Virginia W. Ryan of Worcester, daughter of the late Sherwood's owner, Ernest J. Ryan, said she has her fingers crossed that the diner where, as a girl, she worked with her father, might come back to the city."I'm overjoyed," she said. "The fact that it could be a functional diner again in Worcester, I'm ecstatic and so is my whole family."Ms. Ryan has been involved in organizing the restoration and the fundraising to pay for it. She will accompany Mr. Wallace on the trip to the Rhode Island Training School tomorrow, and she hopes to see the restored diner with people slinging hash again in the future.
"I think it would be fun for the old-timers who went into the diner when it was on Foster Street," she added. "It would be fun for them to go there and reminisce."
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American Diner Museum
- New Hope Diner Project
- 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.