Empire Diner

210 Tenth Avenue
1929 or 1943; altered 1976
Carl Laanes

The Empire Diner is a classic example of the streamlined, stainless-steel,
railroad dining car-cum- restaurant that modernized the urban tradition of horse-drawn lunch wagons catering mostly to working men. A diner, or “lunch wagon” (as it was labeled on a 1955 map of the neighborhood), was erected on this site in 1929, but may have been replaced with the present structure in 1943. In 1976, the diner received a makeover designed by Carl Laanes, the former head of MoMA’s graphics department. The Empire quickly became an important social gathering place for Chelsea’s gay community, and was instrumental in the “Chelsea Renaissance” of the late 1970’s and 80’s. Today one can still appreciate the vintage aesthetic of the diner’s shiny metal panels and contrasting black and white enameling.