LINCOLN HIGHWAY NEWS IS A BLOG BY BRIAN BUTKO
The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review ran an update about the Lincoln Highway Heritage Corridor’s plan to open an interpretive center in Pennsylvania. Included was news of the diner being restored. That diner — which I led the effort to rescue in 1992 for the Historical Society of Western Pennsylvania (my employer, then and now) — will once again serve travelers, at least with pie and coffee.
The LHHC plans to open the Lincoln Highway Experience Museum in Unity (between Latrobe and Ligonier) near the Kingston Bridge. The diner is being restored by Travis Smeltzer and his crew tore from Travis Smeltzer Construction of Apollo. Smeltzer hopes to have the diner back to its original glory by this spring. The diner was originally bought by the Serro family from the Jerry O’Mahony Diner Co. in New Jersey. There was table seating for 16 patrons and 16 stools at the counter.
The diner was moved to south of Greensburg in 1958 when the Serro family purchased a stainelss steeel-clad diner. John and Lillian Rolka operated it as the Willow Diner until 1992, when it was sold to HSWP, which donated it to the Lincoln Highway Heritage Corridor in 2003.
From the article:
“We never know what we are going to find,” said Smeltzer as he emptied a bag of muddy silverware found behind the cooking counters of the 1938 diner that first operated on Route 30 in Irwin. All of the items — along with an apron, condiment bottles, bread baskets, ashtrays, old newspapers and receipts — have been cataloged.
“With any project you peel away layers,” said Olga Herbert, executive director of the Lincoln Highway Heritage Corridor. “You never know what’s there until you remove the layers.”
Crews discovered stained glass windows under several coats of paint. Beneath a linoleum floor, they found maple floors. The biggest surprise was a solid mahogany refrigerator, with glass-door insets, buried underneath stainless steel framing.
The Unity site includes a stone, Colonial-style home and former tavern built by Alexander Johnston in 1815. The historic landmark, once called the Kingston House and later known as the Johnston House, will house thousands of Lincoln Highway artifacts including signs, vintage postcards and photographs, and other highway memorabilia.