I was shuffling down Northern Boulevard en route to the LIRR after picking up some lightbulbs at Home Depot, one of the highlights of my week so far, when I thought I would check on how the old White Tower on Northern and 54th where Broadway crosses the intersection was doing.
The Amtrak line to Boston and New England arches overhead, though it doesn’t stop here: though the IND train has an entrance/exit for the Northern Boulevard station.
Commuter and intercity rail connecting NYC and New England has run over these tracks since the Hell Gate Bridge was constructed in 1916-1917. Here the line has just emerged from the Sunnyside Yards and the tunnel to Penn Station. It will soon join with the NY Connecting Railroad at 25th Avenue and cross the bridge across Randalls Island and into the Bronx. The supporting columns here were clad with concrete when it was built — but the concrete is now crumbling off.
The trestle is part of one of the most amazing transportation projects ever built: the tunneling of the Hudson River; the construction of the cavernous original Penn Station, bulldozed from 1963-1966; and the Hell Gate Bridge, completed in 1916, a relative golden age of railroading in NYC.
In the early 1920s a series of “White” themed fast food restaurants began to pop up all over the country. There was White Castle — still going strong and, in fact, the one at Northern and Bell Boulevards a few miles to the east is in one of the original locations. (I like the fare, but it tends to give me the repeats). There are the White Manna and White Mana hamburger shacks in Jersey City and Hackensack, both of which I have now visited. In the early 2010, hamburgers are bigger then ever with Five Guys and Shake Shacks popping up like weeds all over the metropolitan area. Then, there was White Tower…
The outlines and contours of the White Tower hamburger chain restaurant were visible when it was the Orange Hut. The last White Tower closed in Toledo, OH in June 2008; the chain originated in 1926. There were about 230 White Towers at the chain’s height in the 1950s. The restaurants operated in at least 14 states, including New York, Illinois, Michigan, Connecticut, New Jersey, Virginia, North Carolina, and Florida.
The interior of the Orange Hut in 2010 still contained some hints of its origins, such as swivel stools adjoining a counter.
In 2021 the space has become a juice bar called Juice N Beatz. It’s operated by a pair of immigrants from Turkey who like both electronic and hip hop music and fruit juice and is open 24/7. Smoothies are the specialty and it’s also a flower stand.
Not much remains of the old Tower legacy now but the tower itself, which now is dominated by a carpet store ad.
Change is the coin of the realm in NYC.
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