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Burnett's Diner

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c. 1923. 19 S. Main St.
  • (HABS/photo by Tim Buchman)

From 1926 until 1938 this diner ran as a streetcar in nearby Danville until streetcars were replaced by buses. Buses continued to replace streetcars into the 1950s and thereby offered seemingly endless opportunities to repurpose them as eateries at much less cost than were prefabricated lunch cars. The old streetcars and the prefabricated ones were both called diners, apparently with reference to their resemblance to railroad dining cars. Around 1939, three Burnett brothers rescued Birney streetcar No. 66 from the scrappers in Danville, hauled it to Chatham, converted it to a diner, and added a neon clock to its roof. The streetcar's design, stylishly up-to-date when fabricated by the Perley A. Thomas Car Company, features a rounded front and rear with copious, large-pane windows surmounted by transoms. The window in the front that once served as the conductor's seat was converted to serve the outside walk-up trade. Since there was no interior seating for African Americans during the era of racial segregation, the window did a brisk business serving all comers.

Writing Credits

Anne Carter Lee
Anne Carter Lee



  • 1923


What's Nearby


Anne Carter Lee, "Burnett's Diner", [Chatham, Virginia], SAH Archipedia, eds. Gabrielle Esperdy and Karen Kingsley, Charlottesville: UVaP, 2012—,

Print Source

Cover: Buildings of Virginia vol 2

Buildings of Virginia: Valley, Piedmont, Southside, and Southwest, Anne Carter Lee and contributors. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2015, 362-363.

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