UNCLE TOM’S CABIN
A non-descript, functional retirement complex now occupies the space at 1236 NE 115th Street, once the site of Uncle Tom’s Cabin, a restaurant noted for its homemade food. Tom Gaynor opened Uncle Tom’s Cabin in 1940 in a rustic log cabin surrounded by firs and cedars.
Uncle Tom’s Cabin was one of many diners which once graced major thoroughfares whose menus featured chicken, biscuits, salads, mashed potatoes or french fries, and mouthwatering pies. A far cry from today’s pre-packaged fare, everything was prepared on the premises. Many of these eateries graced the old Pacific Highway, including the Farm, Feasters, the Green Parrot Inn, Hildegard’s, and Rose’s Hi- way Inn. A trip north on the Bothell Highway featured the Coon Chicken Inn, Mammy’s Shack, and Bob’s Place.
There is little doubt that these diners were geared toward families. Meals were generally served family style, and although menus at all of them were almost identical, each had its own “diversion” for kids waiting for the food to be prepared, including horses and playgrounds. Uncle Tom’s Cabin featured a large fireplace and stuffed wild animals.
Tom Gaynor died in 1954, and the restaurant was sold. A disastrous fire in 1960 which destroyed the building and the surrounding picturesque grounds portended the demise of the mid-20th century roadside diner. Hildegard’s, on Aurora Avenue and Winona Avenue, succumbed in 1957, and Bob’s Place became the Mia Roma in 1972. The Farm closed the following year. The only holdout was Rose’s Hi-way Inn on the Pacific Highway in Federal Way. Originally opened in 1939, Rose’s stubbornly continued the tradition until March 17, 2003, when a fire destroyed the building and the last vestige of an already bygone era was snuffed out for good.