One of my favorite diners in New York is so small, you could literally blink and miss it while driving north on West Street.
And it’s understandable – tucked in between two auto repair shops in the shadow of a large tree, it almost looks like it doesn’t want to be bothered with such trivialities as customers and business.
That’s why I love 357 West Street – it’s so cozy, small, quaint, unassuming…A 1950’s era diner that’s somehow survived to 2012, hidden away from city and perfectly happy to stay that way. And sadly, there’s a good chance it won’t be here much longer.
It’s hard to track down much information about 357 West Street before the 1970’s. Designed in the 1950’s by the Kullman Building Corporation, famous for their iconic diner designs throughout the northeast, 357 West Street was at least known as the Terminal Diner through 1989.
Miniature urban sculpturist Alan Wolfson chose to immortalize it in one of his dioramas last year (his stuff is REALLY amazing):
According to RoadsideArchitecture.com, it later became the appropriately named Lost Diner in 1991, Seafood Organic by 1997, the Video Diner by 1999, and later, the Reel Diner and Miss Liberty Diner. In 2002, it was restored as the Lunchbox, and finally became Rib in 2005. Rib closed in 2006, and it’s been abandoned ever since, wasting away a little more each day.
Rather than being over the top with ornamentation, I love how minimalist the design is, especially the sleek, horizontal line patterns (though during its Terminal days, the green was actually white; not sure if this was a restoration fix or a style choice):
I also really like the rounded corner entrance and quarter-circle cement stairs:
Though there’s not much of a view, the side of the diner is lined with windows. And actually, that’s quite a lot of trees for a New York side alley!
Unfortunately, every time I pass by the West Street diner, it looks a little closer to falling over, and this last time was no exception: someone had smashed a hole through one of the windows.
There’s very little to see on the inside, other than a few left over cabinets and some stainless steel. But it really takes no imagination to imagine this as a fully operation diner, complete with a lunch counter and booths.
I noticed a mattress toward the back – is someone living here? More disturbingly, is that red candle wax dripping down the side of that counter? If so, wouldn’t be surprised if a fire is what ultimately takes down the place down in the near future.
Preservationist Michael Perlman, who helped save the Cheyenne and Moondance diners (by getting them the hell out of New York City, where owners were set to demolish them), submitted a proposal to the owners in 2008, but no word of where that stands. I see that fellow New York City bloggers Untapped Cities and George Hahn have also recently bemoaned the state of 357 – it really is that bad.
Every time I pass the little diner at 357 West Street, I assume it’s the last time I’ll see it standing. It’s been dying a slow death for a while in a city that is simply incapable of appreciating the little things over the value of square footage. Here’s hoping someone swoops in and saves it, one way or the other.
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