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Ebby's Diner: 1942

February 1942. "Lancaster, Pennsylvania." Ebby's Diner and the Corine Hotel at Queen and Chestnut streets. Photo by John Vachon for the Office of War Information. View full size.

February 1942. "Lancaster, Pennsylvania." Ebby's Diner and the Corine Hotel at Queen and Chestnut streets. Photo by John Vachon for the Office of War Information. View full size.


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Man in Black

Exceptionally composed photograph. To my eye the man in black along the roadway is the focal point. The angles lead to him. I am always amazed by snow scenes, the intensity of reflected light, which even on a cloudy day usually requires a small aperture with attendant great depth of field and sharpness.


The diner shows no signs of life that I can see. Can anyone read the sign on the door?

[All those footprints would seem to indicate otherwise. - Dave]

More Open Windows

I can definitely related to Ad Orientem's comments on heated hotel rooms.

To paraphrase Mark Twain, the hottest Summer I ever spent was a Winter's night in Moscow!

We spent several nights in Moscow's Hotel Ukraina back in January, 1998. Imagine sleeping in underwear, on top of the bed, with the floor-to-ceiling (unscreened!) windows open to try to catch a breath of breeze. Under 10F outside, and over 80F inside, with no way to regulate the steam heat!

The downside of free city-wide steam.

142 units, 12 stories, $7,556 per mo.

The site of the former Corine Hotel, shown as a parking lot on Google Street View, is currently a construction site for a market-rate rental development, scheduled to be finished by late spring 2024.

[$7556 is the rental rate for the first-floor retail/restaurant space. - Dave]

Sometimes It May Not Have Smelled So Good

The Lancaster Stockyards, the largest stockyard east of Chicago, was located about a mile north of here along the PRR mainline between Philadelphia and points west. It handled 10,000 cattle a day, along with pigs, sheep and other animals arriving by rail from the west. After a layover, the doomed animals boarded connecting trains and were distributed to other cities to meet their fates. If the wind was just right the scent of bacon and steak on the hoof may have tainted the wonderful odors emanating from Ebby’s and The Village.

Lancaster's Pennsy Station

I found this early view of the Pennsylvania Railroad Station courtesy of the Lancaster County Historical Society.

About those open windows

Doug (see below) pointed out that on an obviously chilly day, a couple of the windows in the hotel are open. Back in the day it was a routine practice for housekeeping to throw open windows in recently vacated rooms to air them out. This would have been especially desirable in an era when smoking was so common, even in hotel rooms. Also, most hotels did not have individual thermostats in rooms to control the heat. The heat was typically from radiators or from ventilation grates in the floor connected to an often coal fired furnace. In either case, the heat was usually controlled by the hotel staff. Sometimes rooms could get a bit stuffy or just plain hot, to the point where even on a nippy day, cracking a window for a few minutes might be the only way to get some fresh air and cool off.

A-lone survivor

Built like a brick shi... er, well, solid as a rock. Probably good for another coupla hundred years.

This Photo Smells So Good

My mouth is watering, what with the cooking smell coming from the diner and the cold frigid air that carries the smells of the bacon and eggs, or steak and potatoes to your olfactory senses.

The hotel might have a place to eat as well, if so, that would overload the senses with its waft of whatever is non the grill.

Another odor would be the scent of freshly laundered sheets and/or towels from the Laundry at the top left of the picture.

Also gone

is the building from where John Vachon took this photograph. If you swing around in the Street View supplied by kozel, there's a Holiday Inn there now. No doubt it was a cold February day in Lancaster, yet two windows at the corner hotel (I can't read the name) are open. On the top floor one is open a little. The window directly below it is wide open. Brrrrrr.

Ebby's Was The Old Pennsy RR Station

I could be turned around, but I think the view faces northwest, in which case the train station was on the lot where Ebby's stands in this photo. The tracks came into Lancaster from the N.W. and crossed the empty lot next to (left of) the Hotel Corine, then across Queen Street to the passenger station. The beginning of these tracks are visible from Dillerville Road (or on Google Maps) near the western end of the Norfolk Southern Lancaster yard. The tracks crossed Harrisburg Avenue west of the new stadium and ran into the center of town. The boxcar under the shed was one of many stub tracks that branched into small sidings. Bits of the right of way were turned into parkland or create strange property lines that are still visible, as G of V noted. The tracks then continued east and north to rejoin the main line.

The Old PRR Main Line

The original Pennsylvania Railroad main line passed through Lancaster right through the downtown area. The depot was located at Queen and Chestnut Streets. You can see a boxcar under the roof where the original depot once stood. Apparently by this time the track had been terminated here and that boxcar is now sitting in what would probably be a covered team track. A study of satellite views will reveal parts of the old right-of-way and some buildings cropped at odd angles or others that were once parallel to the tracks.

Upon finding maps of Lancaster circa 1900 I have concluded that the actual PRR trackage passed right across the lower portion of the photograph frame and, indeed, Ebby's Diner is perched directly on the former right-of-way. The box car further down E. Queen St. is actually on a stub-end siding that once served a business there or could have been a freight house.


Is that a lumberyard in the upper right? It’s an unusual open-sided structure


Echoing @davidK, this photograph is a masterpiece.

Great photo!

What a great photo!

Trolley 236 still running

Lancaster had a city streetcar system and an extensive electric interurban railway service in the area. It lasted until 1947 when buses replaced the trolleys. Birney car 236 still runs in nearby Manheim, and you can learn all about it in this video. John Vachon's street views from above really capture that moment in time.

Here and Gone

The diner is gone. It would have been to the far right facing Chestnut. The hotel is gone too. It would have been where the parking lot is now. The three-story brick building remains with some modifications. The commercial ground-floor space was removed.

Delicious geometries

Certain photos on this website work their magic immediately and then leave me to try to figure out where the power comes from. First to spring out at me are the pleasing geometric planes, forming a big Z in the middle, with the streetcar tracks acting as the central diagonal. Then there’s Ebby’s Diner, which appears like a larger version of those two streetcars. And the allure of those cozy establishments -– how I wish I could go to eat at that diner or The Village restaurant or even Sprenger’s, whatever kind of place that is. And winter! Bravo, John Vachon.

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