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Main Str. Diner


DMac

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Many years ago {during the first half of the previous century} approx 696 months ago there was a small diner on the east side of Main str. in the downtown area {MKT tracks to the north, Hamilton on the east, Wester to the so & Houston Ave. on the west}. Today I would define that area as the "975 Loop". 975 as being the first # of the 3 major Hwy's {95, 75 & 59} that ran around/thru the City prior to Frwy's.

I do not remember hardly any info about it except that a several occasions I had lunch & dinner there on my way to the Metropolitan, Majestic, Lowe's State & Kirby theaters to see some really great movies. As time permits would anyone be able to provide some historical notes about it?

I would also like very much to see some photos if any are available or perhaps someone might be able to provide a link for same.

Respectfully

Danny

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Many years ago {during the first half of the previous century} approx 696 months ago there was a small diner on the east side of Main str. in the downtown area {MKT tracks to the north, Hamilton on the east, Wester to the so & Houston Ave. on the west}. Today I would define that area as the "975 Loop". 975 as being the first # of the 3 major Hwy's {95, 75 & 59} that ran around/thru the City prior to Frwy's.

I do not remember hardly any info about it except that a several occasions I had lunch & dinner there on my way to the Metropolitan, Majestic, Lowe's State & Kirby theaters to see some really great movies. As time permits would anyone be able to provide some historical notes about it?

I would also like very much to see some photos if any are available or perhaps someone might be able to provide a link for same.

Respectfully

Danny

Simpson's Diner on Main has been discussed here in the past. There were two locations on Main...one just a few blocks south of the movie theaters you mention. See http://www.houstonarchitecture.info/haif/i...indpost&p=31037

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It turns out that Simpsons Diner was briefly revived in the 1990s.

Emmett Simpson opened Simpson's Diner in 1930 in dusty Kilgore, Texas. The original Simpson's was a smaller, but equally friendly place back then. In 1933 Mr. Simpson moved the diner to a location on Main Street in Houston, where business grew so much that by 1940--and again in 1947--he had replaced the original with successively larger models. After Simpson passed away, partner Bill Wilson moved the diner to a location 100 miles north of Houston. Wilson kept the diner going until in 1976 he, too, went to claim a spot at the great countertop in the sky.

After decades of sunny-side-ups, Simpson's was closed for business. For 18 years, the classic, O'Mahoney-built diner sat abandoned, jukeboxes silent, bolted-down stools vacant.

Flash to 1991. Coy Ramsey, owner of the Avalon diner in Houston, was cleaning out his desk when he came across Bill Wilson's business card. Ramsey wanted to buy another diner. He knew Simpson's was a beauty, but assumed it was long gone. Still, he persisted: asking around, finally tracking down and questioning one of Emmett Simpson's descendants who indicated (to his surprise) that the diner might still be found.

When he saw it, rotten, boarded up, sitting in front of a motel in Madisonville halfway between Houston and Dallas, Ramsey knew he had his diner.

"It would make a great deer camp," he said nonchalantly to the motel owner, who shrugged when asked what that "old thing" was out front ("I didn't want the price to go up too much," laughs Ramsey, recalling this ploy today). She thought he was crazy but bought his story--so Ramsey bought the diner.

Painstaking restoration work began, and after several years the new Simpson's served up its first cup of black coffee in 1995 at its current location on Westheimer Road.

Simpson's--open 24 hours, of course--features breakfast any time, rotating blue plate specials of pot roast, meat loaf, chicken and dumplings, and the ever-popular burgers and shakes. Authentic in every detail, even the waiter was imported straight from little Italy. "New York Eric" comes complete with accent and can rustle you up a mess of mashed potatos with the best of them.

Link

Original Simpsons:

Simpsons.jpg

As reincarnated:

dinersimpson.jpg

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Simpson's last location was 8808 Westheimer. It was a beautiful reuse and addition to the original structure. They had a large parking lot with direct access to both Westheimer and Fondren. There was a patio dining terrace east of the building shaded by giant live oak trees. They tried numerous promotions but none were enough for success. They were the first restaurant in the USA to sell AMC movie tickets so customers could eat before a movie and then not have to wait in line to buy their movie tickets.

Simpson's closed in early 1998 and was sold to Prince's Hamburgers who began operating there for about another three years. Prince's did not do well either. The food was good but they never had much business. Prince's left and a branch of a restaurant from Katy took over running the facility. The food was still OK but they brought in a lot of cheap trinkets from Harwin and attempted to have a gift shop surrounding the patrons. This attempt did not work either and the building tragically burned to the ground on Christmas eve, 2002 or 2003.

Why wasn't Simpson's more successful?

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Why wasn't Simpson's more successful?

I don't think it was anything wrong with Simpsons, it's just that people aren't used to the diner concept as they seem to have once been. That space has been taken up by fast food joints and places like Denny's. With all the bars downtown, I think now they could possibly be more successful back at their original location on Main.

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  • 4 years later...

Simpson's Diner on Main has been discussed here in the past. There were two locations on Main...one just a few blocks south of the movie theaters you mention. See http://www.houstonarchitecture.info/haif/i...indpost&p=31037

Newt Johnson's Diner was in the area you describe, by the old train station, where main post office was built. I looked at the old diner building in the seventies, to possibly purchase it, out in a pasture off Hwy 59, Humble Area. Someone had moved it there on their family farm. It may have been a burger joint when they first moved it but by mid to late seventies, it was in bad shape.

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Newt Johnson's Diner was in the area you describe, by the old train station, where main post office was built. I looked at the old diner building in the seventies, to possibly purchase it, out in a pasture off Hwy 59, Humble Area. Someone had moved it there on their family farm. It may have been a burger joint when they first moved it but by mid to late seventies, it was in bad shape.

Could the diner car location be at E. Hardy Rd., where it dead ends, before F.M. 1960, north of Meyer Rd.?

I knew of an old train car that sat at that location in the 1980's, back in the trees. Looking at Google Earth it would now be in the thick woods.

Historic Aerials shows it in the 1973 map, but not in 1964 image.

I always wondered about the car, it had that silver, streamlined look, much like the diners of the time you speak of.

Address would be @18016 E. Hardy Rd.,about 80' back in the property.

Rough measurements from the images show that it would be around 47' long x 16' wide.

here's a nice link that mentions similar diner car measurements:

http://dinerman.word...ny-dining-cars/

It may have just been a car, sits so close to the rr line.

Edited by NenaE
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  • 4 weeks later...

Sad to think that car might be sitting there in the woods deteriorating. Houston's weather has got to be one of the worst for preservation, with all the humidity and moisture.

It always reminded me more of a diner car, than an actual streamlined train car.

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  • 3 years later...

At some point they moved another diner car in and replaced the one on the post card. I am not positive but I think it was built by a company that built diners that looked like rail dining cars. I had been in the one in the picture with the pint sized DeSota in the parade many times and it was a lot wider than a regular railroad dining car, you could tell it was custom built as a stationary diner.

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Interesting, there were three models at the 1415 Main location:

 

 

Unlike other places in town that call themselves diners, Simpson's (or at least the core of the current Simpson's) is the real, factory-approved thing, one that has a history dating back to the Houston of the 1940s. The name derives from Emmett A. Simpson, a onetime steward on the Missouri and Pacific Railroad who opened his first diner in Kilgore in 1930. In 1933, in search of more business, he moved his diner to the corner of Main and Bell streets in downtown Houston. That diner was replaced in 1940 with a larger one, and in 1947 yet a newer model took over the location. It is this last diner, manufactured by  in Elizabeth, New Jersey, that finds itself reborn 50 years later in the city that first gave it life.

 

http://www.houstonpress.com/1997-02-20/restaurants/let-s-do-diner/

 

 

Doesn't seem to be much out there on the superblock location.

 

 

 

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I've seen these "rail car" style diners around the country, and I've eaten at some of them. Several years ago I had breakfast at one in the small town of Wellington Kansas, on I-35 south of Wichita.

 

All these shiny dining car diners were made by the Jerry O' Mahony Company in New Jersey. Check out this site. It has lots of pictures.

 

http://dinerhunter.com/2009/02/24/jerry-omahony-dining-cars/

 

Here's the story on the Wikipedia:

 

"The Jerry O'Mahony Diner Company of Elizabeth, New Jersey, whose motto was "In our line, We lead the world", was said to have produced 2,000 diners from 1917 to 1941, and became the largest manufacturer of its period.

 

The roadside diners are long, narrow, primarily metal buildings, prefabricated in a factory and trucked to the location. They resemble and are often confused with actual railroad rolling stock removed from their wheels but these buildings were never railroad cars."

 

These were not franchises. All were locally owned and operated. Sad to say, only a small handful of them are still in use today. I know of two: Simpson's Diner in Houston and Penny's Diner in Wellington Kansas. Anybody know of any others?

Edited by FilioScotia
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I've seen these "rail car" style diners around the country, and I've eaten at some of them. Several years ago I had breakfast at one in the small town of Wellington Kansas, on I-35 south of Wichita.

 

All these shiny dining car diners were made by the Jerry O' Mahony Company in New Jersey. Check out this site. It has lots of pictures.

 

http://dinerhunter.com/2009/02/24/jerry-omahony-dining-cars/

 

Here's the story on the Wikipedia:

 

"The Jerry O'Mahony Diner Company of Elizabeth, New Jersey, whose motto was "In our line, We lead the world", was said to have produced 2,000 diners from 1917 to 1941, and became the largest manufacturer of its period.

 

The roadside diners are long, narrow, primarily metal buildings, prefabricated in a factory and trucked to the location. They resemble and are often confused with actual railroad rolling stock removed from their wheels but these buildings were never railroad cars."

 

These were not franchises. All were locally owned and operated. Sad to say, only a small handful of them are still in use today. I know of two: Simpson's Diner in Houston and Penny's Diner in Wellington Kansas. Anybody know of any others?

 

Fascinating. I'd never heard of the Jerry O'Mahony Company before. There's at least one local "rail car" style restaurant that really is a converted rail car:

 

GCseafood.jpg

 

As far as Simpson's, are they still around? The one that was on Westheimer was destroyed in a fire on Christmas Day in 2001. Is there another one?

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Simpson's burned down? I stand corrected. Now I know of only one - Penny's Diner in Wellington Kansas. For a photo, go to Google Maps, enter Wellington Kansas, go down as close to street level as you can and click on the Street View.

 

Penny's Diner is on the road running west from I-35, at the corner of E. 16th and N. Woodlawn, about a mile from the freeway. I'm betting it's still there because in a town that small it probably has the local Breakfast, Lunch and Casual Dining business all to itself. I can't say I'm very fond of the false Potemkin Village style front the owner put up though.

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I took a look at Penny's Diner and it sure appears to be alive and well. I also noticed a couple of trucks parked to the left of it, so apparently it is a popular stop with the truckers as well.

 

This screen shot and it reminds me a lot of the Simpson's car that was located at Main and Bell.

 

post-11998-0-97379700-1395412539_thumb.j

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  • 1 year later...

I realize this topic is very old, but I am digitizing photographs from the 70's and found an old black and white of a diner in the weeds with the sign on the top reading "Newt Johnson's Diner"  I also have quite a few shots of downtown and the area around the "square".  There is one of the interior wall of Love Street Light Circus Feel Good Machine that was exposed during demolition.  I will try to post photos as I can.

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  • 3 years later...

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