Kentucky Diner In A Future Life
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Currently languishing in a field in Irish Hill, a classic chrome diner dating to 1952 is in need of a comeback. There are no plans to restore the art-deco structure built by Mountain View Diners of New Jersey, but owner Mose Putney hopes someone interested in taking on the project can be found.

Putney has long been a fan of diners and the casual, open nature of the restaurant type where a banker can be found eating next to a bum. He said his Kentucky Diner could bring the great age of diners to Louisville with the right location and a little work.

Kentucky Diner, ready for restoration (courtesy Mose Putney)
Kentucky Diner, ready for restoration. (Courtesy Mose Putney)

This diner originated in Milwaukee where it was called Karter’s Diner and operated around the clock for 35 years. A large “K” is still imprinted on the floor, leading Mose to unofficially dub the building the Kentucky Diner. When the original establishment lost its land lease, the building was sold at auction and later was purchased by Putney and brought to Louisville about 15 years ago. Original plans to develop a diner on Lexington Road fell through and now its future is uncertain.

Putney believes timing for such a diner project is better now and has been searching for a developer and a location. It’s easy to think of many places where this diner would fit in well, and Mose has looked everywhere from Downtown to New Albany to the East Market Corridor. It was even considered at one point as a possible fixture in Waterfront Park.

There are challenges to get the project moving. Mose does not want to take on the project himself but would like to find an arrangement that could get the diner in working order. He admits finding a restaurateur with backing for a diner can be tricky. In the end, Putney says the building may look rough now, but one day it could become a great Louisville establishment.

Kentucky Diner, ready for restoration (courtesy Mose Putney)
Kentucky Diner, ready for restoration. (Courtesy Mose Putney)
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Branden Klayko

Founder and Editor at Broken Sidewalk
Branden founded Broken Sidewalk in 2008 while practicing architecture in Louisville. He continued the site for seven years while living in New York City, returning to Louisville in 2016. Branden is a graduate of the College of Architecture at Washington University in St. Louis, and has covered architecture, design, and urbanism for The Architect's Newspaper, Designers & Books, Inhabitat, and the American Institute of Architects.
Branden Klayko

19 COMMENTS

  1. When I lived in Rochester, for a number of years I walked past a field on my way to work that had an beautiful, unrestored diner in it. Eventually it was moved and fixed up and became a Rochester institution: http://rocwiki.org/Highland_Park_Diner

    It was even made into a ‘collectible’: http://www.danburymint.com/collectibles/prod/Highland-Park-Diner-Sculpture_6760.aspx

    In Binghamton NY there is a gorgeous diner called the Red Robin that looks very much like the one you show here:
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/patdavid/4004510527/

    I’d love to see this put somewhere and made into an old-school eating place or a cool coffee shop. You could move it across the street and make it into Red Hot Roasters… or make it the centerpiece of the Irish Hill makeover.

    Did I hear a rumor once that this diner is the actual one used in the shooting of Diner?

  2. Mr. Putney-

    I own the Burger Boy at Brook and Burnett (a 24 hour diner) in Old Louisville. I am very interested in discussing working together on a new diner project. My cell is 445-5133.

    Thanks-

    Dan Borsch

    P.S. Keep up the great work Branden! Could you forward my email to Mr. Putney as well. Thanks.

  3. If you put it in on Bardstown and make it 24 hours, its the perfect replacement to having lost Karma. I need my cheap fix at three in the morning and I’d prefer it not be a place like Waffle House, ya know? There’s a lot of potential in that little box.

  4. I’ve seen this driving by and my mouth starts watering for a greasy burger. I’m crossing my fingers.

  5. Dan,
    I love Burger Boy! And, conveniently, located just blocks from the Mag Bar. Thanks for having an awesome restaurant.

  6. My dad and Mose used to work together when I was younger, and I actually have vague memories of playing around in the old diner. I would love to see it come to life, just as Mose has wished since he bought it. I agree that Bardstown Road is always an awesome location, but that may be because being a nineteen year old, a late night burger joint is always welcomed in my neighborhood. The best of luck, Mose!

  7. Last time I was at Twig n Leaf, I believe I was kicked out around 11pm? A little early for my internal clock. Of course, that was at least a year ago.

  8. I would suggest the empty space just to the south of the new Sol Aztecas Restaurant on south Fourth Street. it is currently a parking lot run by the Seelbach but, with the sacrifice of maybe six spaces, the frontage could be taken up by the diner with parking lot intact behind. It would fill a missing tooth on Fourth and be able to access the 4th Street Live foot traffic.

  9. Ken, I have actually mentioned that location to Mose. The owner is the same property owner in foreclosure with the Hilliard Lyons Center. I agree it would be a great location for the diner. Btw, Mose has a video of the move from Brookfield WI to Louisville. Try transporting something 65 feet long, 17 feet wide and weighing 30 tons through Chicago. They made us take it across the bridge in Northern Ky saying we exceeded the weight limit for the Kennedy. The truck rig transporting the diner was 120 feet long. The Ky State Police pulled us over outside of Louisville and asked for our permit into Louisville. The permit the city had given us was for the day before. The trooper refused to let us go any further. Sitting in his cruiser the trooper asked what was the name of the diner and Mose, looking at his name tag, said “Maguire’s”… whereby the trooper said, “I never saw you” and drove away.

  10. Ha! That’s a great story!

    You know, if that diner were a 24 hour Red Hot Rosters with food, people leaving a Headliners concert could stumble over there, have a cup of coffee and something to eat at 2 in the morning. I’d love that… closer and better than White Castle!

  11. Make that “Red Hot ROASTERS.” I’m a retired English teacher… can’t let that mistake by.

  12. That is ironic because the diner at one time was going to Distillery Commons across from Red Hot Roasters. This was after we purchased, had rezoned with the Irish Hill and Original Highlands Neighborhood Association’s approval a piece of property that was part of the only block on Baxter/Bardstown Rds. still zoned residential which was the corner of Baxter and Payne Sts. to put the diner. Ald. Melissa Mershon (does anyone remember her?) thought it best to go against both neighborhood associations and P&Z and basically held Mose and I up thus sending the diner on its still current trip to find a home. We did sell the corner to the city that built an award winning housing development however the end result as it pertains to the diner is pictured above.

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