Isles, Inc., the Trenton-based community development organization, has teamed up with local developer Modern Recycled Spaces to save the classic Cass Diner in Lawrence from being demolished.
The once-gleaming stainless-steel eatery sat vacant for decades on Route 1 north next to Mrs. G. It will be relocated to Mill One the redevelopment project in Hamilton today, and converted into a classroom space for vocational training.
“It’s vital that we save this art-deco diner from the landfill,” said Marty Johnson, president if Isles. “If we can return it to the Trenton and Hamilton area and restore it as the world’s most unique classroom for job training, it’s a win for everyone.”
The owner of the diner, SSL Realty Holding, agreed to donate the diner to a person or group willing to restore it to its 1950s glory. More than 40 people expressed interest, and SSL selected the plan put forward by Modern Recycled Spaces and Isles.
“The diner is a classic part of New Jersey history and as American as apple pie,” said Daniel Popkin, president of Modern Recycled Spaces. “The protection and restoration of this 1950s icon is what Mill One and Modern Recycled Spaces are all about.”
The diner is being moved to its new home today. It will be transported along Route 1, Interstate 295, Sloan Avenue, Klockner Road and East State Street to its new home, the 200,000 square foot mixed-use redevelopment project known as Mill One. Mill One, a partnership between Isles and Modern Recycled Spaces, is located at a former luggage and clothing factory at the intersection of Nottingham Way and North Johnston Avenue in Hamilton.
Isles and Modern Recycled Spaces are seeking $50,000 in donations to restore the diner. They are raising money for the restoration via crowdsourcing.
“Mill One’s mission is to turn grand old structures into new spaces for start-ups, creative businesses and nonprofits,” Popkin said. “We hope to use the diner to show how creativity can transform even the most dilapidated structures into novel work spaces.”
The Cass Diner was in business on Brunswick Pike as early as 1949. It was owned by Cosmo “Cass” and Marion Giordano, who sold it to Mrs. G in 1974, right around the time that I-295 was built to detour the thru traffic off Route 1. It continued to operate for a few years as Ben’s Diner and then briefly as the PDG Diner. It is one of just five remaining diners in New Jersey built by the Mountain View Diner Co., a Little Falls company that operated from 1939 until 1957. The company built some 400 pre-fab diners and its motto was: “A Mountain View Diner will last a lifetime.”
“Kids and young adults will benefit from the restoration and reuse of this iconic diner,” Johnson said. “The first step was to save it. Now we need the community’s help to faithfully renovate it. We look forward to bringing this emblem of ‘50s Americana back to life.”
Editor’s Note – The original version of this story listed the diner as the Calhoun Street Diner. The diner was not the Calhoun Street Diner. The Calhoun Street Diner at 1710 Calhoun Street went out of business in 1961 and was built by the Kullman Dining Car Company of Newark. The Cass Diner was never called the Giordano Diner. This is the name used by the historic preservation community to refer to the structure but it was never known by that name to the public. Planet Princeton regrets the error and thanks Lawrence historian Dennis Waters for providing accurate background on the history of the diner.