Remnants of Albuquerque’s Route 66 Diner Culture
One of the most endearing remnants of old Route 66 roadside architecture is the diner. They are the precursors of modern fast food establishments. A true “diner” is a prefabricated structure built at an assembly site and transported to a permanent location for installation to serve prepared food. Webster’s Dictionary defines a diner as “a restaurant in the shape of a railroad car.” The word “diner” is a derivative of “dining car,” and diner designs reflected construction details that manufacturers borrowed from railroad dining cars. A diner is usually outfitted with a counter, stools and a food preparation or service area along the back wall. Decommissioned railroad passenger cars and trolleys were often converted into diners by those who could not afford to purchase a new diner.
Albuquerque contains very few remaining examples of diners that were in business during the heyday of the old Route 66. One of the finest examples of post-Depression era diners is the Valentine Diner in Nob Hill (shown above).The historic Valentine’s Diner at Triangle Park (next to the Girard Gateway) was renovated for use as a police substation for the Nob Hill area. It is a beautifully restored building that perfectly encapsulates the Route 66 roadside culture that permeates Central Avenue. There are other examples of Valentine Diners that can be found in Sedillo and Socorro, but I’ve yet to see any other renovated so beautifully as the Nob Hill model.
Here is another example of Route 66 diners found in Albuquerque, the 66 Diner on Central Avenue and Sycamore. The original structure burned to the ground in 1995 and was rebuilt to retain the nostalgic feel of the original diner. They are well known for their milkshakes and malteds! Roadside diners are an essential element of Albuquerque Route 66 culture that will be missed as development marches on.
Although this was not located in Albuquerque, I discovered this rather forlorn Valentine Diner near the VLA (Very large Array) in Socorro, New Mexico. The VLA is an astronomical radio observatory with a series of 27 radio telescopes installed in Socorro to listen for signals from deep space. While getting lost near Socoro (a favorite pastime) I discovered this Valentine Diner. This photo was shot 9 years ago so it is quite likely that this building is no longer there. I hope it found a good home and purpose! -All Photos by Don Peterson