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Lincoln Highway Corridor group receives historic preservation award

| Wednesday, July 17, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
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The Serro Diner after a 28-month restoration project completed by the Lincoln Highway Heritage Corridor under the direction of architect Mike Friedhofer and building conservation associates Dorothy Krotzer and Marlene Goeke of Philadelphia, with construction by Smeltzer Construction of Apollo.
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A 1938 diner restored by the Lincoln Highway Heritage Corridor group has not yet made its public debut, but it has already received accolades for its historical significance.

The Pennsylvania Preservation, the Commonwealth's private nonprofit group dedicated to preserving the state's historic places, recently announced that the local organization will receive a “Construction Project Award for Special Historic Properties” during a presentation Sept. 27 at the Sunnybrook Ballroom in Pottstown.

“I'm over the moon with the preservation award for the diner restoration,” said Olga Herbert executive director of the heritage group.“The entire team can share in this honor.”

The Monarch-style diner was constructed by the Jerry O'Mahony Diner Co. in Elizabeth, N.J., and delivered by railroad car to brothers Louis and Joseph Serro of Herminie in 1938.

There was table seating for 16 patrons and 16 stools at the counter. Its design featured Art Deco-style porcelain panels, marbled glass clerestory windows, ceramic tile walls, a marble counter, mahogany booths and tables and chrome stools.

“This was the Cadillac of diners,” Herbert said.

In 1958, the brothers sold the diner to John and Lillian Rolka who operated the Willow Diner along Route 199 in Youngwood until 1992.

The Senator John Heinz History Center purchased the diner in 1992 with the intent of restoring it and locating it in the first floor of the history center.

In 2003, the center gave it to the Lincoln Highway Heritage Corridor. For nearly a decade it was in a warehouse until the corridor group initiated the two-year restoration project.

Funding for the preparation of plans for the project came from the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources and private donations. The actual restoration was funded through a Transportation Enhancement Award to the Lincoln Highway Heritage Corridor.

The project was completed by the Heritage Corridor under the direction of architect Mike Friedhofer and building conservation associates Dorothy Krotzer and Marlene Goeke of Philadelphia, with construction by Smeltzer Construction of Apollo.

The diner is in currently in a storage facility in Latrobe. Plans include moving it to the Lincoln Highway Experience Museum site on Route 30 East by the Kingston Dam.

Fundraising efforts will be conducted in the future for the construction of a building attached to the museum to house the diner.

Although the diner will not be fully operational, waitresses wearing uniforms similar to those worn at Serro's in the late 1930s will serve refreshments.

“To really experience the diner, patrons will be able to enjoy a piece of pie and cup of coffee at the newly restored diner,” said Herbert. “I am anxious to relocate the diner to our Lincoln Highway Experience site to further protect it and to share it with the public.” Until then, Herbert continues efforts to promote the historic diner.

“Next, an application will be filed to have the diner listed on the National Register,” Herbert said.

Deborah A. Brehun is a staff editor for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-238-2111 or dbrehun@tribweb.com.

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