Building Description Davies' Chuck Wagon Diner, Lakewood Colorado
Davies' Chuck Wagon Diner, a 1957 stainless steel diner manufactured by Mountain View Diners, Inc. of Singac, New Jersey, is located in Lakewood on West Colfax Avenue (US Highway 40) at Hoyt Street. Nearby, along Colfax, are a variety of commercial strip related businesses including: retail stores, auto dealers and service centers, motels and restaurants, and office buildings.
During its years of continuous operation, Davies' Chuck Wagon Diner has been well maintained and is in excellent condition. It retains a high degree of integrity in terms of location, setting, design, materials, workmanship, feeling, and association. Minor changes have not detracted from its exceptional ability to convey it historical and architectural significance. Over the years, the owners have made a concerted effort to maintain and retain original components. The diner and its freestanding, 36' tall, neon lighted sign remain much as constructed in 1957. Together, they are a highly visible and well known landmark along the West Colfax Avenue commercial corridor.
The diner, a 22' x 50' rectangle, with a vestibule extending from the front, faces south towards Colfax. It is located on a .466 acre, northeast corner lot that measures 100' in width and 200' in depth. Most of the lot is asphalt paved, with most of the parking located at the rear. A concrete block storage room, added in 1978, extends from the north wall. The diner, which has a basement, is set back 33'4" from the Colfax curb line and is centered, east to west, on the lot. A concrete patio, added in 1994, is located on the south and facilitates ADA access.
The 36' high sign is located 10' south and 6' west of the diner. It is supported by two 12" diameter pipe columns, set 4' apart in concrete, which extend up between the two 16 gauge metal sides of the sign. The edges are boxed to protect the internal electrical wiring. The 240 square foot sign faces east and west. Between the pipe columns, there are three small, oval signs reading "Pancakes," "Steaks," and "Fried Chicken." The main vertical section, measuring 8' wide by 16' high, begins 11' from the ground. Its lower sign, measuring 4' high by 16' wide, starts 2' from the bottom of the main section, is outlined with eighty 25 watt lamps on each side, and contains the word "Diner". The upper sign, containing the word "Davies" measures 2' high by 7' wide and is 1' from the top of the main section. The words "Chuck Wagon" are located in the space between these signs. All of these words are outlined with neon tubing. A 17' cowboy, wearing an apron, stands on the south edge of the lower sign, with one hand pointing to "Davies" and the other hand directing customers to the diner. The cowboy is illuminated by spot lights.
The diner consists of two sections that were joined together on the site. Blond brick fills the area below the stainless steels walls and forms low planters on the south. The brick is 12" in height on the south and increases to 20" as the grade slopes to the rear.
The roof of the diner slopes from its center flat section to the outer edges. The roof is composed of 3/4" plywood fastened to 4" steel rafters and is covered with layers of felt and tar. Along the roof's edge is a continuous gutter with stainless steel downspouts on the east and west ends. The heating and cooling duct, three exhaust fans, and three evaporative coolers are located on the roof. They are partially hidden by a 27" stainless steel parapet wall set back 5' from the roof's edge on the west, south, and east. This wall repeats the same pattern which is above the west, east, and south windows.
A 5'4" x 8'8" vestibule is centered on the south elevation. It has 3' aluminum framed, glass doors on the east and west and a 47" x 6' window on the south. Concrete steps lead to the vestibule from the 5' wide sidewalk next to the building. The corners have a 16" radius curve of polished stainless steel extending 9'6" to its flat roof. There are triangular shaped canopies, with stainless steel edges, over the doors. On top of the roof stands a life-size brown fiberglass horse that was installed in the early 1960s.
The west, south, and east walls of the diner are somewhat similar in appearance. The stainless steel is attached to plywood sheathing so that very few nails show. The bottom strip folds under the edge of the plywood where it is nailed. The top of each strip has a nailing section which is then covered by the next upper strip. At the top of the primary 4' band is a cap strip.
There are 12 large fixed windows, several of which extend across the south facade. Most of the windows measure 47" high x 53" wide and have double insulated glass. There are two uninsulated, curved windows which have a 24" radius at the southeast and southwest corners. The windows have stainless steel molding with screws so that the glass may be replaced. The spaces between windows have a mullion cover of stainless steel that snaps into place. Above the windows, is a steel band that is 27" high which is made up of two horizontal rails of stainless steel separated by a 3" red baked enamel steel strip on both the top and the bottom of the band. Between the rails is stainless steel formed in a corrugated vertical "V" pattern.
The 24" radius curved southeast and southwest corners of the diner have a 6" band of formed stainless steel at the bottom, and a 48" wide piece formed into a running "V" pattern as it rounds the curve. The pattern is repeated for another 27" above the curved glass. Scroll shaped cap strips border both sides of this top section.
There is a 4' wide band of stainless steel below the windows that contains four 6" wide strips of stainless steel alternating with three 3" strips of red baked enamel on steel. The 6" strips were hand formed into a streamlined rail design which begins with a quarter-circle shape, 1" in depth, is followed with a flat space, and ends with a reverse quarter-circle shape at the bottom. The red enamel pieces separate the 6" bands.
The west wall has three windows and one solid panel near the center with a sunburst design. The solid panel marks the location of an interior mirror.
The east wall has one large window and a 19" x 26" casement window. The remainder of the wall has five stainless steel panels that are 47" high. These panels were formed into a sunburst pattern with a hand press.
The north wall has 16" wide x 9'6" high panels of aluminum covering its 50' length. Gutters and downspouts are mounted on the wall. On the east end, there are two 24" square and one 26" x 37" casement windows. Electric and gas connections are on the west. Along the bottom, there is 1/4" angle iron between the brick base and the aluminum panels.
The stairs to the basement were originally located on the north, outside the building. At an unknown date, a small structure was built to cover the stairway. It was removed in 1978 when a one-story addition measuring 24'8" long from east to west and 10'5" wide from north to south was constructed.
The 1978 addition is set on an 8" foundation of poured concrete. The low pitched shed roof has wood joists that are covered with plywood and rolled roofing. The exterior walls are of 8" concrete blocks. The floor is 4" thick concrete, and the ceiling is sheet rock. There are 24" x 35" aluminum sliding windows on the north and west. On the north, concrete steps with handrails lead up to a 3' steel entry door.
The addition contains the stairway to the basement and provides space for bread racks, freezers, lockers, shelves, a sink, patio umbrellas, and the fire extinguisher system for the kitchen grill hoods. On the south wall, a 3' door, at its original location, leads into the diner.
In 1994, a poured concrete patio was added on the south. It measures 19'4" x 30'. Including the sidewalk, its south edge is 24'4" from the diner. The patio sits 20" above the surrounding concrete area. On the east and west, in addition to the steps leading to the vestibule, there are 4' wide ramps, with handrails, for wheel chair access. The patio is surrounded by wrought iron fencing and accommodates five 4' diameter umbrella tables.
Inside the vestibule there is a 3' wide entrance into the diner. The original door was removed to allow more space for wheelchairs. The vestibule ceiling is white Formica, and the walls are embossed stainless steel. The floor is grey and white mosaic tile.
Above the entrance, a metal tag identifies the diner as Serial Number 516 and the manufacturer as Mountain View Diners, Inc. of Singac, New Jersey. To the left, inside the entrance door is the cashier's stand. The current owners have installed a 1944 NCR cash register, a family keepsake. The register stand wall has a curved section of stainless steel imprinted with a diamond pattern. The order counter is directly in front of the entrance and has a fluted roll of stainless steel above and across the length of the order shelf opening. Above the roll is the original clock, centered between fluted roll accent pieces. The wall below is covered with stainless steel imprinted with geometric patterns. The floor of the diner is 3/4" square mosaic tile laid in a pink and grey tumbling block design.
The efficient, compact kitchen measures 11' x 28' and is centered at the rear. Open aisle space is less than 3' wide, but there is room for as many as three cooks and a dishwasher to work at one time. The east end is filled with a dishwasher, pot sink and dish tables. The west end has a 6' x 6'6" walk-in refrigerator, duct space, shelves for hot beverages, and a small soda fountain. A center island contains a steam table, freezer, refrigerator and plate storage. The north wall is covered by the range and oven, chefs table, and slicer, and a door into the rear addition. The south wall extends out into the dining area and contains the serving and order stand, and a grill and cold table. The original grill was replaced in the 1970s. The range and oven were replaced at an unknown date. The floor behind the front grill is 6" square brown ceramic tile. The walls and ceiling are the original white Mirawall except for the stainless steel behind the cooking areas. The range and grill have stainless steel hoods. Dry chemical fire extinguisher heads are located in the hoods. There is a 30" square skylight extending up from the 8'6" high ceiling which has windows that may be opened. The lighting is provided by single-light fluorescent strips.
At the front of the diner, the east half is filled with the original 17' eating counter that is 28" wide and has 11 stools. There is a corner booth and two tables. The counter curves in a half circle on the east end. At the rear, there are shelves under the counter top. On the wall, behind the counter there is a large display case, a refrigerator for dairy products, shelves for miscellaneous items, and a Lowerator dish cabinet. The back wall is covered with stainless steel which has been formed into sunburst patterns. The stools have stainless steel bases with flat 13" diameter round stationary seats covered with brown Naugahyde that replaced the original pink. The original, off-white Formica counter top has a pattern of pink and grey amoeba and boomerang shapes. It is somewhat worn on the elbow rest edges.
Above the floor, under the front of the counter is an 8" high x 12" wide pink and grey tiled foot rest with stainless steel nosing.
The large fixed windows fill most of the east and south upper walls. Between the windows, spaces are covered by stainless steel mullions which snap into place in channels, providing a clean look with no screws or fasteners showing. Window miniblinds are tan. Over the years, several sets of blinds have covered the windows, replacing the original light grey metal blinds which had pink tapes and nylon cords.
A 3' wall under the windows is covered with grey and off-white leather-grained Formica panels. The panels are 1/4" masonite faced with Formica and were pre-formed in the factory. An "H" channel strip is nailed to the plywood walls and the panels are slid into its grooves, one at a time, working from one end of the diner to the other, with a 1/2" aluminum cap strip covering the joints to eliminate any sign of nails or screws. Two courses of grey 4" x 4" tiles form a baseboard.
The restrooms are located in the northeast corner. A door leads into a foyer area with two doors leading to the restrooms. The men's restroom has blue fixtures and 4" square blue tile to the grey Formica ceiling. The floor has 2" square blue and grey mosaic tiles. The women's restroom has one pink sink. The other non-original fixtures are white, and the walls are covered with 4" square pink tile to the grey Formica ceiling. The floor is 2" square pink and grey mosaic tile. Each restroom has a 2' x 2' aluminum casement window with obscure glass. Both had electric hand dryers that have been removed.
The west half of the diner contains 10 booths and table seating. The 11' x 11' northwest dining area has a dropped ceiling with recessed 1' x 4' fluorescent light panels. In the ceiling, there are five hot or cold air diffusers and three speakers. The large fixed windows continue around the south and west walls to the rear. The north and east walls are covered with rose-gold mirrors which appear to enlarge the area. A mirror covers a 38" section of the west wall and another mirror is over the booth to the right of the kitchen doorway. Each table has a Seeburg juke box unit that replaced the original Wurlitzer juke boxes in 1977. The booths are covered with tan Naugahyde which replaced the original pink. The table tops are the original off-white Formica pink and grey amoeba and boomerang pattern. The walls and ceilings are grey and off-white leather grained Formica. There is a 60" refrigerated pie and cake display case next to the kitchen doorway.
The upper walls and ceiling of the diner are complex. Above the windows is a concealed light trough for fluorescent lights which is faced with a 3" wide pink enameled stainless steel strip at 6'8" from the floor. Original pre-formed Formica extends to 7'8" into a round corner and then goes up vertically forming another light trough. It then extends to the flat portion of the ceiling which is 8'6" from the floor. This configuration forms a monitor-like ceiling without the windows that were common in early day diners.
The diner's steel frame is a welded structure, with any wooden members acting only as nailers. Each 11' x 50' section weighs approximately 19 tons. The frame for each section begins with two 12" "I" beams that are 5" wide which support one-half of the diner. Beams are placed at the outer edges. The two placed in the center are 44" apart. The diner may be moved on rollers. Two 8" "I" beams are welded between the two 12" "I" beams at each end of each section, allowing space below for jacking. The 12" "I" beams are 12" shorter than the diner to leave space for the brick wall that surrounds the base of the diner. This wall covers all the structural supporting steel. Concrete piers, in the basement, support the 12" beams, and the concrete basement walls support the ends.
The 12" "I" beams run east and west. On top of these beams are 4" x 1 1/2" steel "U" channels, turned on edge and welded to the 12" "I" beams on 24" centers for the full length. These channels run north and south in each section of the diner. At the connection point, there is a 4" channel iron set on edge which is used to bolt the two halves together. Also, 4" "U" channels are used around the outer edges. On top of these, is welded a 1/8" steel plating that covers both sections.
The walls of the diner consist of 3" "U" channel studs with the flanges turned out. They are welded to the 1/8" steel floor plates. These vertical 7' "U" channels are located on 18" centers, or between windows and where needed. Wood nailers are bolted to the inside web of the "U" channels or on their outer edges. The 3" "U" channels are also used for the top horizontal plate with the flanges facing down and welded to the channel studs. This top plate is filled with two 2" x 4" nailers. On top of the plate, 4" "U" channels, turned on edge, are used for the roof rafters. They are installed on 30" centers. The rafters are angled towards the center to allow for the monitor-like ceiling and then are placed flat at the center. Wood nailers, 2" thick, are bolted to the sides of the rafters for support of the many angled ceiling.
The walls and ceiling of the diner are filled with electrical and sound wiring, plumbing, wood cleats, and 2" fiber glass insulation. The walls are covered with 1/2" plywood on both the inner and outer sides. The floor is 2" thick poured concrete. Openings are provided through the floor for access to the basement equipment. The vestibule was fabricated separately and attached on site.
Plans for the foundation and basement layout were furnished by Mountain View Diners, Inc. so that the basement walls and all support points were properly located. More than 88 cubic yards of concrete were used. Concrete caissons for footings were poured at load points. The footings measure 16" wide x 12" thick. The walls are 12" thick concrete, reinforced with rebar. Concrete piers placed 15' from each end serve as supports for the diner's "I" beams.
Footings and foundation walls were also constructed for the 5' x 8' vestibule and the rear 4' x 22' stairwell. The walls are 8" thick, and the stairs were constructed up to the diner level. The stairwell is outside the basement walls. The basement walls are 7' high, and the floor is 4" thick. On the east and west, there are two windows. The 15" x 31" windows open from the top and swing downward.
The sewer system was installed under the basement floor and includes floor drains and sewer to the outside grease trap on the north. All sewer piping is cast iron. Water pipes are copper. The electrical wiring is contained in thin wall conduit and steel enclosures.
A dry food storage room measuring 8' x 15' is in the southwest corner of the basement. An office measuring 8' x 15' is located in the southeast corner. The center section contains a hideaway Seeburg juke box master unit with cabling going up to the diner. Also in this area is a large ice machine, refrigerators and freezers. A 76-gallon hot water heater is in the northeast corner. The northwest area is filled with three refrigeration compressors and three soft drink tanks, all with piping up to the diner. A large 40-year-old Frigidaire combination furnace and air conditioner is also in this area. This unit continues to heat the diner through a 24" square duct to the roof duct system. Since the unit proved inadequate for cooling, it has been supplemented with roof top evaporative coolers. The basement walls have been painted white; the ceiling remains unpainted. Incandescent and fluorescent fixtures provide minimal lighting.