Thursday, April 17, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

Farewell to another Camden landmark

The Elgin Diner, a '50s classic, is doomed

Farewell to another Camden landmark

Just as Camden's monumental Sears building disappears into dust comes word that the Elgin Diner, a stainless-steel classic on Mount Ephraim Avenue, also will be demolished.

As my colleague Julia Terruso reported Sunday, the diner -- "poster-bombed" Saturday by photographer Camilo Jose Vergara in protest of conditions in urban America -- will be razed to make way for a discount store.

Vergara says losing the "beautiful Elgin" would be "a sad day I hope...never comes." City officials tell me no demolition date has been set, but real estate agent Peter Abdallah, whose brother, Issam, owns the Elgin, confirms the plans.

A 1958 Kullman brand diner,  the Elgin was for decades a popular, family-owned spot and still has devoted fans in diner nostalgia circles.

It closed in 2007, reopened in 2010 and closed again about a year ago. Some potential buyers have expressed interest in purchasing and moving the building, but none have come up with the money, Abdallah says, adding that the property is "under contract" with a buyer who plans to raze the Elgin and build a Family Dollar store on the site.

"It's a real shame," says historian Paul Schopp, noting that the late Camden haiku poet Nick Virgilio was fond of writing at the Elgin. "The city is losing some historic fabric, but in a larger context, it's losing a cultural icon.

"With all the open space in Camden due to failed urban renewal and fire and all kinds of demolition, why are we taking down another building?" Schopp says. "I can't answer that question."

Neither can I.

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