When pictures of a semi-abandoned Kansas burger stand festooned with faux towers first surfaced on Instagram, astute appreciators of roadside architecture had one question: Is this a long-lost White Castle?
The resemblance between the diner (above) and vintage White Castle restaurants (pictured at top) prompted the Columbus, Ohio–based fast food company to do some research of its own. It learned that the remarkably intact, 1930s diner may be a close cousin of many early Castles. White Castle Vice President Kevin Richardson told AN that the company was fairly certain the burger stand and the original White Castle buildings were both constructed by Ablah Hotel Supply, a Wichita, Kansas manufacturer of prefab diners in the 1920s and 1930s.
According to Cheap Old Houses, the vacant burger stand was originally stationed in Wichita but has lived in rural Butler County, Kansas for the past few decades. Its owner will give the 400-square-foot building away for free to anyone who’s able to move it off the property.
As the post went viral, questions from White Castle fans came pouring in. “Everyone started saying ‘what are you guys gonna do about this?!’ We felt compelled because Craver Nation was calling and we wanted to be able to listen.”
In honor of Cravers’ enthusiasm and in recognition of the diner’s historic significance, White Castle leadership has offered to fund the move for a person or group that will preserve the building.
Before the company announced its offer this week, Richardson cold-emailed the owner to inquire about the property. After discussing the site and any obstacles a mover could face in extracting the steel-framed structure, White Castle decided it could reasonably cover the cost of a move.
The company has set up a preservation hotline, and according to Richardson, it has received a few serious inquiries so far.
“We feel a responsibility to make sure our story isn’t lost, especially from those early days when we were creating a whole new industry,” Richardson told AN. “We’re really not trying to be the biggest [company] by any means, but we’re trying to be the most connected. We’re still family-owned after all these years, and being family-owned gives us permission to be responsive to things like this. We can do a little bit of good.”
When White Castle was founded in 1921, Americans were skeptical of hamburgers thanks to books like The Jungle, which exposed horrifically unsanitary conditions in America’s meatpacking plants. To reassure customers, the pioneering fast food restaurants were white outside and mostly stainless steel inside to demonstrate a high standard of cleanliness. Today, White Castle’s signature sliders can be enjoyed at almost 400 locations across 13 states.