Silver Top Diner

A 60-year history slinging good, hearty diner food evaporated into a cyclone of legal battles. The diner itself is still unrestored.

About this Property

#Redevelopment

A fixture at the corner of Harris Avenue and Kinsley for 60 years, the Silver Top Diner was forced to move out from behind the shadow of the new Providence Place mall in 2002. The original Kullman Dining Car is on a parcel of land that the administration of Mayor Vincent A. Cianci Jr. sold to the developer of the 903 (Jefferson Place).

When this area was full of industry, the diner was one of several restaurants, large factories, and small businesses flourishing along Harris Avenue. During its heyday, the Silver Top would stay open 24 hours, feeding the city’s factory workers on their way home from the third shift or on the way into starting first shift. In more recent years, it has opened after midnight and closed around dawn, catering to the after-the-bars-close crowd.

Once surrounded by the Providence Fruit and Produce Warehouse, Merchants Cold Storage, Brown & Sharpe, and others, the departure of the Silver Top marks a changeover from city of industry to city of apartments.

#Current Events

As far as we know, the diner’s new owner is sitting on it and waiting for funds to develop so it can be restored and put into use. The newest news that we can gather are that it is sitting in storage in Cranston. Our status of #NotInRuins is therefore tentative.

#History as Timeline

Sources: PPS Architecture Guide, The Valley Breeze, TurnTo10.com, The Society for Commercial Archeology, HABS/HAER

1937
The Silver Top Diner was built by Kullman Diner Company of Harrison, New Jersey
1939
Appears in an aerial photo of the location, so it must have been purchased, moved, and put into operation shortly after production.
1980
Review in the Society for Commercial Archeology’s “All Night All-night Diner Tour”:

The Silver Top is an excellent 1940s Kullman Diner with fluted porcelain enamel, glass block and exceptional interior detailing. Silkscreened details abound, porcelain enamel stool bases, early marbelized formica ceilings, and an entrance to the restrooms and telephone that is literally unmatched in any diner. Unfortunately, the classic overhead sign has been removed, but the essence of the diner remains. The food at the Silver Top has long been quality stuff, and the new owners are carrying on the tradition. Me, I go for the blueberry pancakes about every time. (Across the street is the produce market which may be fairly active by the time we arrive.)

1998
The Historic American Engineering Record says of the interior:

The diner also maintains a highly intact interior. Powder blue tiles line the base of the counter, and light blue tiles cover the floor. The grill hoods and service areas include Art Moderne-style chevron sand moulded stainless steel inaradiating, fan-like pattern. The wood booths are high-backed, and the ceiling is white with a blue grained pattern. Stools, also original, are chrome with vinyl seats. At the southern end, glass paneled doors with wood framing and flanking mirrors hold original signs that indicate the location of lavatories.

2000
Included in the Providence Preservation Society’s Ten Most Endangered List
2002
Moved from its rented location on Harris Avenue to a “temporary” location on Middle Street in Pawtucket. The City of Pawtucket invited then owner Patricia Brown move the diner to donated land with a $100,000 HUD loan.
2003-2011
Legal battles ensue. The City of Pawtucket required a business plan be filed in order to qualify for a construction loan. Ms. Brown took three years to submit an acceptable plan. Meanwhile, construction costs have increased, restoration costs have increased (from the diner sitting stagnant under the elements), land to put it on becomes harder to come by, zoning issues, neighborhood resistance to an all-night establishment… the clock marches on.
2012
Patricia Brown has a fundraiser to help defray legal costs in November after winning damages against the City of Pawtucket on October 9, only to have a different judge reverse the decision on October 26th.
2016
Katie Cerrone, an entrepreneur and daughter of car dealer Al Cerrone, purchased the diner for $30,500 at auction in October. Cerrone also owns KC’s Classic Burger Bar in North Attleboro, Massachusetts.
2017
The dining car was moved from its “temporary” location on Middle Street in Pawtucket to Cranston where it will be restored.
2018
A Valley Breeze story that the diner was still in storage and has not yet been restored.

#In the News

Court Battles: Pat Brown Vs. The Pawtucket Redevelopment Agency

By Donna Kenny Kirwan for the Pawtucket Times

The case is a complicated one which dates back to 2007, when the quasi-city Pawtucket Redevelopment Agency (PRA) filed a lawsuit against diner owner Patricia Brown charging that Brown failed to meet the terms of the agreement under which the agency loaned her $100,000 – essentially by failing to get the diner up and running. As such, PRA was seeking to recoup $52,878, plus interest and other costs, that Brown spent (and the PRA provided) to relocate the diner to Pawtucket.

Brown, of Johnston, filed a counterclaim, maintaining that PRA officials misinformed her on certain issues and failed to keep promises about advising her throughout the diner’s relocation and re-opening process. A cook and waitress by trade, she said she had been upfront with the PRA about her lack of experience in such matters as writing a business plan, obtaining financing or overseeing construction work.

The case had been substantially delayed after Brown’s original attorney, who had been handling it pro bono, passed away in 2008. Brown eventually found representation through Providence attorney Arthur Chatfield, who also agreed to take on the case for free. Pawtucket lawyer Kevin Horan, the longtime attorney for the PRA, handled the case for the agency in the recent court proceedings.