More recently known as “Streetcar Named Desire,” this engaging example of 20th-century Americana, formerly Bill’s Diner, began life in the mid-1920s as a functioning streetcar in Reidsville, N.C. Bill Fretwell of Chatham took advantage of the elimination of streetcars in favor of buses there by the Duke Power Co., purchasing this single-truck trolley car in 1937. He housed his already successful food-stand business in his newly acquired streetcar where he had both sit-down and curb service. For over forty years Fretwell operated the business that reputedly was Chatham’s first establishment to serve hot dogs. The diner’s interior consisted of a tight kitchen space and four table booth units. Such “ready-made” establishments, now a fast-disappearing aspect of roadside America, exemplify the entrepreneurial spirit of the Great Depression. Bill’s Diner was listed in the registers under the Diners of Virginia Multiple Property Documentation and contributed to the Chatham Historic District, but it was demolished early in the 21st century.
Many properties listed in the registers are private dwellings and are not open to the public, however many are visible from the public right-of-way. Please be respectful of owner privacy.
VLR: Virginia Landmarks Register
NPS: National Park Service
NRHP: National Register of Historic Places
NHL: National Historic Landmark