Abby Road Construction (Joe Pacheco)
The Miss Lorraine Diner is a rehabilitated, prefabricated, semi-streamliner diner that was manufactured in 1941 as No. 774 by the Worcester Lunch Car Company. Developer and owner Jonathan Savage had the semi-streamliner moved to its current location and worked with Joe Pacheco of Abby Road Construction, Clark Schoettle, architectural historian, and Richard Gutman, author of American Diner Then and Now, to restore and replicate the diner’s unique original details. MHA Boston prepared the National Register listing and consulted on federal historic tax credits.
Semi-streamliner diners are landmarks in the history of American culture, design, and food-service merchandizing, as well as key monuments in the history of the roadside diner, which had its beginnings in Rhode Island. Miss Lorraine Diner’s manufacturer, The Worcester Lunch Car & Carriage Manufacturing Company, was an early pioneer of the American diner industry and a leading manufacturer throughout the first half of the 20th century. The Miss Lorraine Diner is one of twenty-five such diners originally made by the Worcester Lunch Car Company (WLCC), only eight of which still survive today.
The diner was originally installed in 1941 at 357 Asylum Street in Hartford, Connecticut. An advertisement announcing the opening of Donwell’s Diner, “Hartford’s newest and finest diner-restaurant,” was posted in the Hartford Courant. The advertisement emphasized three features characteristic of Worcester-made diners: cleanliness, comfort, and speed.
Between 1951 to 1956, Miss Lorraine Diner was operated as Drake’s Diner and Hotel Diner. In 1966, after twenty-five years at its original site in Hartford, Donwell’s Diner relocated to Kensington, Connecticut. Unfortunately, after sitting in various states of restoration, the interior of the diner was stripped of furnishings by creditors. The diner was then purchased at auction in 1969 by Stanley “Squeak” and Ida Zawisa, who opened it as Squeak’s Diner at 190 East Main Street in Middletown, Connecticut, operating it until 1997.
In 2013, Jonathan Savage bought the diner, vacant since 1997, and moved it to its current Pawtucket location. Savage incorporated the diner’s restoration into his ongoing refurbishment of the circa 1868 Lorraine Mills textile manufacturing complex. Today, Lorraine Mills acts as affordable live/work spaces for a variety of artists, dancers, designers, and creatives. In addition to the Miss Lorraine Diner, the multi-use complex is home 140 small businesses including the Pawtucket Arts Collaborative, Mixed Magic Theatre, Wage House Improv Comedy Theatre, Whisk Me Away, Crooked Current Brewery, and White Dog Distillery.
After being moved in 2013, a temporary building structure was immediately built to enclose the diner and protect it from the elements during its rehabilitation. Almost eight years of meticulous rehabilitation work followed until the temporary structure was removed in January 2020 and the Miss Lorraine Diner finally opened its doors to the public.
Today, Miss Lorraine Diner patrons can enjoy both the classic, all-American diner fare and a piece of American streamliner history with modern character, smooth-edged design, and industrial materials. Thoughtfully preserved details include porcelain enamel, pink Tennessee marble, Honduras mahogany trim, ceramic tile, stainless steel, Formica ceilings, and chrome-plated fixtures.
Preserve Rhode Island and Rhode Island Historical Preservation & Heritage Commission | 2020 Rhody Award
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