Worcester, Massachusetts has an amazing history. There are just so many things that Worcester has launched into the world. One of the most incredible is thanks to the Worcester Lunch Car Company.
Back in the late 1800s, when workers were hungry, there were horse-drawn carts that would pull up to busy locations with food. They’d have a few stools inside and a selection of items. When horse-power changed over to car-power, the wagons went along with them. And the Worcester Lunch Car Company launched, in a brick building at the intersection of Quinsigamond Avenue and Southbridge Street.
It was founded in 1906 by Philip H. Duprey and Grenville Stoddard. They shipped their pre-built “dining cars” all over the US! For those of us who live in Worcester it seems normal to have these diners around. But for much of the US, these beautiful, historic buildings are now a rarity.
The oldest diner known to still be operating is Casey’s Diner, in Natick, from 1922. That tiny 8-stool diner originally had wheels! It now lives in Natick, MA. It’s thought to be one of the (if not THE) oldest continually operating diners in the US.
The “showcase” diner for the company was set up immediately across the street from the factory – the Miss Worcester Diner. That’s still in operation, too.
All told, the Worcester Lunch Car Company created 651 diners until they shut down in 1957. By 1961 everything got auctioned off. If you look closely at the brick building you can still see a ghostly image of the original name. In this first one you should be able to see “Worcester” –
And in this second one you should be able to see “Lunch” –
My aim is to visit all remaining (alive) Worcester Lunch Car Diners and post photos. Let me know if you know of any I’ve missed!
Here’s the ones I’ve gone to so far, in release order. Note that the Worcester Lunch Car Company started their numbering at #200. Diners took a while to build so sometimes the numbers don’t quite line up properly depending on when they were started and which date is claimed by the current owners.
1922 – Casey’s Diner, Natick MA
1930 – Ralph’s Diner, Worcester MA (#660)
1936 – Parkway Diner, Worcester MA (#670)
1936 – Peg’s Diner, Whitinsville MA (#723)
1936 – Boulevard Diner, Worcester MA (#730)
1942 – Lloyd’s Diner, Framingham MA (#783)
1947 – Dinky’s Diner, Shrewsbury MA (#814)
1948 – Miss Worcester Diner, Worcester MA (#812)
1950 – Miss Mendon Diner, Mendon MA (#823)
Map of diner locations: