WHITE TOWER 2021, Woodside

by Kevin Walsh

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…

Orange Hut, 2010

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.

Check out the ForgottenBook, take a look at the gift shop, and as always, “comment…as you see fit.”

I earn a small payment when you click on any ad on the site.

3/24/21

12 comments

Doug Douglass March 24, 2021 - 10:52 am

There were two in the Village. Greenwich Avenue just east of Seventh Avenue South, seen in 1930s photos and Eighth Avenue between Greenwich Avenue and 14th. Both existed into at least the ’80s.

Reply
Ron S March 24, 2021 - 11:57 am

I used to stop at Orange Hut whenever I was nearby. Mostly a diner/NYC history fetish. The food was pretty bad, but the old structure inside was cool

Reply
anthony faber March 24, 2021 - 12:14 pm

this says the last White tower is still open.
https://whitetower24hour.com/5349

Reply
Fred Glazer March 24, 2021 - 2:42 pm

There was also a White Tower at 14th St & 2nd Ave (southeast corner) where my sister & I would go for a hamburger & a root beer. It closed, I believe, in the late ’60s and NY Eye & Ear Hospital’s expansion (now part of Mt Sinai) gobbled up the site. The building was similar to White Castle, but the fare much better & less greasy. Both chains started about the same time in Milwaukee (?)

Reply
chris brady March 24, 2021 - 3:35 pm

They sell cartons of frozen White Castle “sliders” in supermarkets down here,24 to a pack,but
nothing can induce me to buy them,I bet theyre made in China.

Reply
Anonymous March 24, 2021 - 5:57 pm

There is an old White Tower in Albany which is for sale
now. It was most recently the Fuze Box night club. Still
has the White Tower Hamburgers sign in front.

Reply
Tal Barzilai March 24, 2021 - 7:07 pm

Speaking of White Castle, a lot of their locations is starting to be lost to developers and becoming harder to find these days, so I suggest trying to go to one where you find it.

Reply
Joe Fliel March 26, 2021 - 2:31 pm

Since I lived on Schermerhorn & Hoyt, I used to go to the White Caste on Willoughby Street in Downtown next to the former TA headquarters. About 2010, a check cashing place took over the location. At least the Blimpie is still in business across the street. Another White Castle I went to for years was on Metropolitan Ave. & Humboldt St. in Billburg. It closed in 2014 and was replaced by an expensive hipster habitat apartment building.

Reply
Sal Gianone March 25, 2021 - 7:26 am

I went to the one on Hillside Ave and Springfield Blvd in Queens Village in the 1950s with my dad…..very rarely though. We didn’t eat out much in those days. He introduced me to their lemon meringue pie. Wow was it good.

Reply
Bob N March 26, 2021 - 11:27 am

My grandmother worked for White Tower in one of their district offices. I inherited her collection of White Tower coffee mugs, soup bowls, and silverware. We still use
them occasionally.

Reply
George Cassidy March 27, 2021 - 11:12 am

In my yoot, there was a White Tower at the intersection iof Springfield Boulevard and Hillside Avenue in Queens Village. I believe it was still going when I left home for the service, but it was gone the next tine I looked.

Reply
P-j Greiner April 1, 2021 - 1:32 pm

Staten Island can “boast” of not one, but two, active White Castles. One on Forest Avenue and one on Hylan Blvd. A blessing or a curse?

Reply

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.