First starting in the 19th century as lunch wagons, some restaurants became known as diners in the 1920s. Needing additional space for burners, griddles and iceboxes to serve increasingly commercial areas, many 1920s diners became too big to be moved by train or truck and were built directly on site.
Most companies survived the 1929 stock market crash, but still had to make smaller sizes or streamline production using new and improved architectural techniques including Formica, glass blocks and stainless steel. During World War II, the production of new diners slowed down as manufacturers and owners reconditioned old diner shells. It was also more common to see women working behind the counters as many needed the money following the Great Depression, women's rights started to be an issue and many men were abroad at war.
Once the war was over, diners changed architecturally to a more fluid look using steel construction. 1950s diners also included more booth space as a good economy and women in the workforce encouraged families to eat out more often. Davies’ Diner on Colfax opened in 1957 during the Diner-Restaurant craze. Diners began to decline as fast food restaurants such as McDonalds and Burger King opened in the late 1950s.
The White Way Grill was manufactured by the Valentine Diner Company in Wichita, Kansas. The founder, Arthur Valentine, wanted to give western and midwestern states a cheaper alternative to shipping from the East Coast. This model, designed by Richard Ten Eyck in the 1940s and called an “Aristocrat”—the smallest of the “Little Chef” models—has eight stools, a rounded parapet above the door and buttresses at the corners. There are several other Valentine Diners still open in Buena Vista, Colorado Springs, Lake City and Pueblo.
Located just east of the Aurora Fox Theater at 9842 East Colfax until 2003, the name was a reference to the “Great White Way” of bright lights in theater districts, like that of New York City. The neon White Way Grill sign is a reproduction of the original sign which would be illuminated only when the diner was open.