Is there anyplace more inviting than a classic railroad-car diner? It’s a matter of taste of course, in more ways than one. I’d eat in one every day, but my cholesterol is high enough as is. In future centuries, we’ll have figured out a way to make eating vegetables and incessant exercise unnecessary, but until that day comes, diners will have to remain an infrequent destination for your webmaster.
It was almost a lock that the Victory Diner, Richmond Road and Stobe Avenue in Dongan Hills, Staten Island, would be torn down as well after its longtime owner, Maria Pappas, retired after over 30 years and sold to developer Leonard Tallo. But the Victory wouldn’t die. Tallo creditably held off demolition until the American Diner Museum could find a buyer.
The Victory Diner is a classic example of the 1947 Kullman Dining Car Company of New Jersey “Challenger Model” diner unit with glass brick flanking the front doors and corners and exterior blue fluted porcelain enamel panels. It originally stood on Victory Boulevard in Castleton Corners (hence the name) but in 1964 it was moved to Dongan Hills. Scenes from Rodney Dangerfield’s “Easy Money” were filmed here, and Willie Sutton worked in the Victory as a cook while on the lam after breaking out of a Philly prison.
The Richmond County Savings Bank Foundation put up $10,000 to buy the diner from Maria Pappas, and the newly created Staten Island Community Preservation Conservancy, a nonprofit established by former Borough President James Molinaro and developer R. Randy Lee to preserve endangered buildings and open space, contributed the approximately $20,000 necessary to move the diner to Ocean Breeze. The restaurant was eventually area located at the end of the FDR Boardwalk and the start of the Midland Beach promenade, near Freedom Circle and at the foot of Seaview Avenue.
The best laid plans of mice and men…
While rehabilitation that included the gutting of the interior had already begun at the diner’s relocation along the South Beach boardwalk, Hurricane “Superstorm” Sandy so damaged the exterior frame in October 2012 that the rebuilding process could not continue, and the remnants were torn down in May 2013.
Title card photo: Ronald Saari