Harlem Bespoke: Another history post we did over 10 years ago at the start of blog was about West Market Diner (shuttered 2004) in the planned Manhattanville campus footprint. A blog reader mentioned that their family used to own the diner and shared amazing photos with some insight on the forgotten past of the neighborhood. The diner building has since been demolished to make way for the new Columbia University campus.
“Thank you for your blog on the West Market Diner. My grandfather, Isaac Gibbs, owned it before it was the West Market Diner. It was called the Gibb’s Diner. Family lore has it that he had the first free standing diner in NYC and this might have been it.(He owned several) The diner was built in 1921. The pictures I am enclosing are of the original diner. As you may know, an addition was built, parallel to, and in front of the original diner, in about 1948. The original diner became the kitchen of what later became the West Market Diner. The original diner with its tile floor and rounded wood ceiling, as seen in the attached interior photograph, reportedly still exists as the kitchen of the West Market diner. I think the dinner is a landmark. The man standing in the interior photograph is my grandfather. I do not know the exact date of this photograph, but it is of the original diner with an attached dining area that I assume my grandfather added.”
“I always had my grandfather’s pictures of the diner, but did not know until February, 2009 that it was, what is now called the West Market Diner. Ironically, I visited NYC this weekend and yesterday I went for the first time to the West Market Diner. I was excited but frustrated that I could not see into the old diner. I certainly hope they also preserve some part of the kitchen which is the original diner and is older and more historic than the 1948 addition. I am enclosing a picture of my grandfather in front of one of his diner’s which was on railroad property. This diner would also have been on the west side. This is obviously (judging by the car) a very early diner. Any further news on the diner?”
The last information that we found pertaining to the diner’s fate is on the Columbia Manhattanville Campus website, which states:
“Prentis Hall (632 W. 125th St.), the Studebaker building (615 W. 131st St.), the interior of the original West Market Diner, and the Nash building (3280 Broadway) will be preserved and restored.”
The original diner interior will apparently be relocated inside one of the storefronts of the new buildings to built after the diner at 659 West 131st Street is demolished. Read more of the plan here: LINK.
See our original post on the West Market Diner: LINK.
Photos courtesy of the Gibbs estate, no further copies without permission.