Old Milford Diner wrapped and almost ready to roll
Editor's Note: This past Sunday’s strong winds actually tore most of the shrink wrapping off the old diner, but it is expected to be reapplied soon.
The old Milford Diner has been shrink wrapped, and according to the Save The Milford Diner Facebook page, it may be gone from the SBC parking lot downtown within a month.
Milford’s once iconic diner will be loaded aboard a truck and transported to Indiana to be restored.
Danny Miller, an automobile and history enthusiast who lives in Indiana, outside of Kokomo, is having the diner moved to him, and he plans to restore it on his property and turn it back into a working diner. When it’s done he hopes to move the finished diner to Kokomo and run it himself as the same kind of eatery it once was.
Miller said Bill DaSilva from SBC gave him the diner more than a year ago, but then Miller ran into some obstacles, which delayed him taking it. For years now, the diner has been growing into more and more of an eyesore, despite its one-time charm as a downtown landmark and a cozy place to get hot coffee, bacon and eggs.
Miller said it’s been his dream to restore and own a diner and run it. He expects it will take at least a year for the restoration.
“It will be totally restored,” he said during a July interview with the Milford Mirror, adding that he plans to keep the original sign — so it will still be called the Milford Diner.
His Facebook page, facebook.com/savethemilforddiner, contains updates about the project.
“Although the diner retains most of its original interior, and original exterior stainless steel remains intact, it is in desperate need of restoration,” the Facebook page states.
Miller found out about the diner a number of years ago when there was an article on a diner museum website. Miller contacted the city of Milford, and he said officials here connected him with DaSilva, who agreed to let him have the diner to restore.
A local welding company has been reinforcing the diner so it can be moved: Miller has photos of the reinforcement work posted on his Facebook page. The diner will be transported by flatbed truck to Indiana by Mel Brandt, described as “a veteran ‘king of the road’ of diner movers,” in a 2005 article published in The Sullivan County Democrat, a newspaper out of Callicoon and Monticello, N.Y.
Miller hasn’t restored a diner before, but he has restored cars. “If they’re gone, they’re gone forever.” Miller calls it “saving a piece of history.”
The Milford Diner was once a city landmark, serving breakfast to area residents for many years. Some people still remember the red vinyl booths and the red counter stools that added color to the small city eatery.
The Memaj family ran the restaurant before retiring in 2003, at which time it looked like the structure would be demolished.
John Lombard, a resident and businessman, stepped in and purchased the diner for $100,000 at the suggestion of his young son to try to save it. His plans to move it and reopen it, however, fell through because, he said, the former owner of the New Haven Avenue parcel where the diner is located claimed ownership of the diner.
In 2009, a nonprofit group took up the battle to save the city landmark and assumed control of the Milford Diner. The group was trying to raise about $80,000 to renovate the building. They intended to turn the stainless steel diner into a tourist and information center.
DaSilva worked with the committee as they pursued their goal. The Milford Diner Committee entered into a letter of agreement with him to buy the building and maintain a long-term lease on the property.
Then, for various reasons the efforts died, and the committee turned the building back over to DaSilva in 2012.
Now to Indiana
And now the diner will go to Indiana. Miller has been working with Daniel Zilka, president of the American Diner Museum, whose goal is to save vintage diners.
Zilka, in an email, said the diner was built in the 1950s, and Miller said he agrees with that assessment. For many years, the diner has been described as a 1946 Silk City Diner, and that is what Miller thought he was acquiring.
“The diner was not built in 1946, but 1953-55,” Zilka said in an email. He said there were several different diners at the site over the years, starting in 1930, but the one there now was built in the 1950s.
Miller said it’s even better news that the diner is a 1953 model.
“When I saw pictures of it, I thought it was from the 1950s,” Miller said, “but I was basing [its age] on what people were saying— that it was a 1946.”
He would have been happy enough with a 1946 diner, but those built in the 1950s are “more of what people can relate to,” Miller said. So he’s thrilled.
Miller hasn’t been here to see the diner: He’s been relying on others here to secure it and ready it for transport. He’s seen plenty of photos of it though, and has been in touch with Zilka as Zilka has taken parts off the diner so it can be moved more easily.
Some city officials said they thought the diner would be gone by now, and Miller said he appreciates the city’s patience.
“I would personally like to thank the mayor and the city of Milford for being patient, understanding and working with us,” Miller said “It truly means a lot.”
He thinks it will be moved by the end of October or the beginning of November.
Miller asks that if anyone has pieces of the diner, perhaps from when the earlier restoration was attempted, they call him at 1-765-438-5224.