CURRENT ISSUES

Tom’s Diner

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Loretto Heights Main Campus
1980 Albion St.

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Thanks to an outpouring of community support, we’ve now spoken to the owner and potential developer of Tom’s Diner. However, the path toward a solution is unclear. At this time, the Certificate of Non-Historic Status and the related public posting period remain active, with a June 14 deadline. (The certificate is essentially a precursor to a demolition permit. You can learn more about the demolition process here.)
Given the constraints of this timeline and the process, the only way to ensure further dialogue and problem-solving is for community members to submit a landmark designation application to the City of Denver, which extends the consideration period. A group of local residents and neighbors has formed to take this on; they are raising money through a gofundme campaign. Historic Denver will match any current member’s donation to the campaign. The deadline for the historic designation application is also June 14.
After the application is submitted, there are several review steps and ultimately hearings at the Denver Landmark Commission and Denver City Council. During this consideration period, it will be important to still seek solutions that work for the building, for the owner and for the community. Stay tuned to our Facebook page and this website for further updates.

Share your stories!

Do you remember when Tom’s Diner was a White Spot? Did you eat family meals there as a kid? Was it a favorite 2 a.m. gathering spot for you and your friends after a night on the town? Share your stories here! We know the Diner has long been an important informal community space, and this is a great way to share your gratitude and support as we work to find a solution to save it.

Background

On May 17, 2019 the City of Denver provided community notice of an application for a Certificate of Non-Historic Status for the Googie-style, classic diner today known as Tom’s Diner, located at 601 E. Colfax.  A Certificate of Non-Historic Status is most often a precursor to demolition, and based on news reports a developer has the parcel under contract with a plan to scrape the mid-mod diner for new development.  Because the 1967 building has architectural, historical and geographic significance the City Landmarks staff found it had the potential for landmark designation, and posted notice for a period of 21 days.  Read more about how demolition review and postings work here. 

During this pause Historic Denver wants to seek solutions for saving this rare and iconic mid-century building, which is part of Denver’s story and contributes to the overall eclectic character of Colfax.  There are many vibrant ways old and new can co-exist, and we believe that’s true for this property as well.  We’ve reached out to both the property owner and the developer asking them to come to the table to seek solutions and get creative. Encourage the developer to engage in dialogue before demolition by signing this petition.

The History of the Diner

In 2008/2009 preservation professionals surveyed East Colfax to identify sites of significance.  Tom’s Diner was among the most intact buildings in the corridor, and was determined eligible for the National Register of Historic Places.

Tom’s Diner is also featured in the Historic Denver Guidebook on East Colfax Avenue under “White Spot Restaurant,” published in 2007 (excerpt follows):

White Spot Restaurant
601 E. Colfax Avenue
Architectural Style: Googie
Built: 1967
Cost: Unknown
Architect: Armet and Davis

An excellent example of the Googie style was added to East Colfax Avenue in 1967 in the form of a White Spot Restaurant. The building’s unusual architecture is an expression of the style that originated with a California coffee shop of that name after World War II and became popular along highways and major thoroughfares throughout the country. The style was viewed as futuristic, displaying features such as cantilevered and tilting roofs, walls, and windows, as well as geometric shapes and acute angles. The style also used expanses of glass, metal, plastic panels, and stone veneers. The architects for this building, Armet and Davis of Los Angeles, are considered the preeminent designers in the Googie style.

The White Spot coffee shop chain started in Colorado in 1947. William F. Clements, who was born in Monte Vista, operated a bakery business that supplied restaurants in downtown Denver before opening his first White Spot in an existing storefront on Broadway. Clements created nine restaurants in the chain and hired Armet and Davis as the firm’s architects. The coffee shops were known for their casual atmosphere, convenient parking, attractive prices, fast and friendly service, comfortable seating, and menus with a wide selection of meals. The avenue’s White Spot operated until the mid-1980s, and the last representative of the chain closed in 2001. A series of restaurants followed in this building, but none achieved long-term success until Tom’s Diner, owned by Thomas S. Messina, began serving food in 1999.