White Diner rising from the ashes
ANDREW LEIBENGUTH/TIMES NEWS Alex Lorkowski, 19, left, holds a board as Lou Albertini cuts it to the correct length. The Albertini's are donating most of the labor for the project.
The White Diner, a 1932 landmark in South Tamaqua, is rising from the ashes as owners, contractors and volunteers are working non-stop to resurrect the 80-year-old landmark following a fire that struck the restaurant in September of last year, destroying it. Workers have spent the last few months resurrecting a new foundation and frame work in preparation for a larger, more modern restaurant. Owners Morgan Jones Jr., Helen Fulmer, and Jim Fulmer stated, "We've worked hard to keep the restaurant operating for all these years and will continue to do so, no matter what is thrown our way."
Jones added, "The new restaurant will be more like a grill bistro restaurant than a diner." Jones, who also owns the Broad Street Deli on West Broad Street in Tamaqua, added "Including the new basement and cellar, we've added about 1,500 square feet of space to the restaurant. This allows us a larger cooking and seating area."
Jones added that all of the work is being done by only four or five people, stressing the amount of hours they've already put into it. "Without the assistance and support from the Albertini family and community, we couldn't have done this," added Jones.
Contractors Chris Albertini and his father, Lou, both from Nesquehoning, are donating most of their labor during the rebuilding. "This is my son's company," said Lou. "I'm here primarily for moral and technical support." He added, "We are also doing this work in memory of my other son, Evan, 13, who passed away February 13, 2010." He continued, "The work give us both a form of emotional acceptance and stability."
The South Tamaqua eatery has been a long time staple in the area and had multiple owners over its lifetime. In the 1940s and early 1950s the diner was known as Jake's Diner. Then Earl G. Wester owned and operated the White Diner from 1953 to 1972. Wester passed away in 1999.
In the past, patrons recalled the picture that was hung inside the diner that showed the current dining room area as a connected gas station. Morgan's sister owned the business since 1986.
In addition to owners the diner has gone through numerous renovations and additions, including two trolley attached cars from Tamaqua and one from Lehighton, dating back to the 1800s, which formed the "L" shaped section of the restaurant. Sadly both trolley cars were destroyed in the fire and by termites that attacked the wood after the fire.
Jones added, "We tried to save the trolley cars and sections of the diner for use in the new restaurant, but their condition kept us from keeping them."
"Making way for the new restaurant, we've had to dig out 12 feet of virgin soil," said Jones. "Certain areas of the restaurant will reach as high as 18 feet."
Helen, Jim and Morgan, pointing out the thousands of horns of support they hear as people drive by, stated their appreciation to the Albertini's, community and other supporters that have showed or offered support during the construction.