Bid to save Cheyenne Diner
Updated 8 p.m: The Cheyenne [amNewYork print story here], one of Manhattan’s last railroad-car-style diners and a cozy refuge for Farley Post Office workers and Penn Station travelers, is closing its doors after more than half a century.
An employee confirmed yesterday that the neon-lit, chrome-covered diner would shutter “around the end of the week,” but referred further questions to the eatery’s owner, who did not return messages before deadline. A city preservationist who led a successful effort last year to rescue a similar establishment said he would launch an effort to save the Cheyenne after amNewYork informed him of the diner’s fate.
“Definitely. I’m going to get right to it,” said Michael Perlman, who founded the Committee To Save The Moondance Diner.
Regulars of the 24-hour diner were stunned by the news, which was first reported yesterday on the blog Jeremiah’s Vanishing New York.
“I’m so upset right now,” said regular Raquel Sanchez, 36, of Harlem, upon learning the news. “This is like the feel of an old-school diner. It’s warm, it’s good food, big portions.”Located on Ninth Avenue at West 33rd Street, the Cheyenne, which was built in the 1940s, is one of Manhattan’s last half-dozen or so remaining prefabricated diners, designed to resemble railroad cars, said Daniel Zilka, director of the American Diner Museum.
He said Cheyenne officials contacted him in November to seek preliminary information on how to relocate the diner. It is unclear if the diner’s portable structure might be moved, or if the business will reopen in another building.
Last year, the Moondance Diner was driven out of SoHo, its home since the early 1930s, by new construction and soaring rents. With the help of preservationists, it found a new home in LaBarge, Wis.
At one time, dozens of prefabricated diners decorated Manhattan, Zilka said. The handful that remains today include Chelsea’s Empire Diner, TriBeCa’s Square Diner, lower Manhattan’s Pearl Diner and Harlem’s West Market Diner, which is threatened by Columbia University’s expansion plans. The Market Diner in Hell’s Kitchen, which closed in 2006, will reopen this summer. It originally opened in 1962.
“Free-standing diners citywide are becoming an endangered species,” Perlman said. “The Cheyenne Diner’s pretty much intact from its heyday.”
Zilka said he encourages the Cheyenne’s owner to contact his museum to try to save the structure.
“It is sad to see,” Zilka said. “We hope that at some point we don’t lose all of them.”
-- Ryan Chatelain
Diner defined: The word "diner" comes from "dining car," as they were once based on a railroad design. They started as mobile lunch wagons 150 years ago, and evolved into the prefabricated, easy-to-move structures we know today. The true stand-alone railroad-car diner is down to just a few in Manhattan. With Cheyenne vanishing soon, survivors are down to places like the Square Diner, 33 Leonard St. at Varick Street.
Photo: RJ Mickelson/amNewYork