Friday, January 9, 2015
January 9, 2015: Waltham Histories: Wilson’s Diner
[Two years ago this week, I moved to my new home in Waltham, Massachusetts. Since then I’ve learned a lot more about the histories and stories of this great town, and wanted to share a few of them this week, leading up to a Guest Post from one of my favorite Walthamites!]
On the layers to the ordinary history that surrounds us.
In 1999, Wilson’s Diner, a small restaurant located on Main Street (Route 20) in Waltham, was added to the National Register of Historic Places. That date marked the 50th anniversary of the diner’s installation—not its construction, exactly, since the diner was built by the Worcester Lunch Car Company (only the 819th such diner built by WLCC) and delivered to its location in 1949. As such, its continued existence helps connect us to a unique moment in the history of American architecture and food service, as well as to the ways in which American communities were created and evolved in the post-war period, and I believe it richly deserves that National Register designation.
I can’t speak to the diner’s original 1949 ownership, but having had a few meals there in the last couple years, I can certainly testify to how much its current owner’s identity connects to another complex, longstanding American history: the 20th century explosion and evolution of Greek diners. As with Vietnamese nail salons and Korean convenience stores, among the many other such ethnic sites and settings, the link between Greek immigrants and families and diners has its stereotypical or exaggerated side to be sure, but has also become a central and crucial part of this American community’s histories and identities, one that has significantly evolved but that remains a part of our 21st century society. And one which, in my experience, literally greets all contemporary customers at Wilson’s Diner.
Guest Post this weekend,
PS. What do you think? Any histories and stories from your hometowns you’d share?