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The “Lost Diner” at 357 West Street

New York City isn’t known for its roadside attractions or its motor inns, but along the West Side Highway, you can still find shades of the open road.  What could be more emblematic of the highway state of mind than the diner, whose very contours suggest forward motion, gleaming like hubcaps across the American landscape?  Abandoned between auto repair shops and a gentlemen’s club, the lost diner at 357 West Street fully commits to the mystery and isolation only hinted at in Edward Hopper’s Nighthawks, (which happens to be based on a nearby diner in Greenwich Village.)  Untapped Cities previously covered the history of the diner, but today we can’t resist taking a peek inside… 

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Inside an abandoned diner on the West Side Highway.

The restaurant closed in 2006 after 50 years of operation, having gone through a steady succession of owners and names, including the Terminal Diner, the Lunchbox Diner, Rib, and perhaps most fittingly, the Lost Diner.  Constructed by the New Jersey-based Kullman Diner Car Company, the structure is typical of the Art-Deco diner cars manufactured in the ’40s and ’50s, which have since become an iconic fixture of cities across America.

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“Employees must wash hands”

Most of Manhattan’s once numerous diners have been demolished or moved in recent years; you can still visit Soho’s famous Moondance Diner—in Wyoming.  Unfortunately, the Lost Diner’s chances for relocation are fading fast.  Since the last time we visited the 357 West Street, vandals have knocked out the windows and laid waste to the interior.

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Valuable scrap metal has been lifted from the walls.

In the dining room, shattered glass joins a host of reflective surfaces, causing the room to glimmer with points of light in the evening.  Sunlight bounced from a passing windshield momentarily dazzles an aluminum ceiling. In the absence of clinking silverware, the rush of the highway fills the space.

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Gaping windows and remnants of a recent squat at the lost diner’s entrance.

Old mattresses, fresh garbage, and a homemade toilet point to a recent, if not ongoing habitation.  Stacks of rotting food cartons fill an overturned refrigerator, covered with the husks of long-dead pests.  In the former kitchen, a dry erase board lists celery seed, walnut oil, and Windex for a shopping trip that was doomed to be this diner’s last…

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An empty pantry in the back of the lost diner.

For more photos and the history behind New York City’s abandoned places, check out Will’s website, abandonednyc.com, and follow him on Facebook for updates and new locations.