Kewpee is alive and well in Lima, Ohio

An authentic Art Deco throwback, Lima’s Kewpee Hamburger joint has been astonishing diners for over 70 years. Kewpee Burger

During a recent business trip to Ohio, I had a chance to detour to Lima (pronounced LYE mah) and  visit a historic bit of American pre-war kitsch to see if the food lived up to its reputation.  A sleepy town that is still coasting from its pre-war prosperity, it has some very attractive buildings, so after having an excellent slice of cherry pie and a decent cup of coffee, I took an hour to explore downtown.

Kewpee Doll

There is something inherently creepy about dolls in general, and something extremely creepy about the androgynous Kewpie character in particular.  The large Kewpee standing watch over the building’s facade was removed several years ago for restoration, apparently creating a minor controversy in this quiet county seat.  Restored to its post of eternal vigilance over North Elizabeth street, it has a distinct crinkliness not shared by its smoother-complexioned interior sisters/brothers, two of which quixotically gaze out across  a roomful of hungry diners from their temple-like perches in two opposing corners of the white-tiled and stainless-steel trimmed Deco interior.

Authenticity is a very subjective thing, but in a post-modern era characterized by failed attempts to evoke nostalgia and emulate historical style, its important to note that this little Art Deco gem is essentially originally.  Their slogan, “Your grandpappy ate here” is true enough, and I wouldn’t be  surprised if my own grandfather did, given that his sales territory covered the once thriving industrial areas of western Ohio.   Stepping out of the step-backed orange and white building, my camera and I took a quick 45 minute swing through downtown.

Allen County courthouse

Every county seat in the US has a courthouse. Usually built in the latter half of the 19th or early 20th century, they all have a certain judicial sort of look about them, even though architectural styles vary. The Allen County Courthouse is no exception. Designed by Architect George H. Maetzel, this Second Empire Empire style municipal structure was built between 1881-1884.

Domes Nut Shop

Every town seems to have a nut shop, and Lima’s is a dandy. Like Kewpee and several attractive office buildings, Dome’s Nut shop has been operating since the mid-1930s, although the family run business, now in its third generation, has only been in the current location since 1975.  Unusually blessed with two camera stores, some clothing stores, a couple boutiques, and multiple restaurants, but a lot of service offices–public and private round out downtown, which centers on Town Square.

Lima Square Entrance

A particularly tall (in Lima terms) and ornate (ditto) office building nails down the south west corner of the square.  A pair of brass double doors are flanked by elaborate iron lamps, and the lower windows are surrounded by elaborately decorated iron panels.  Apparently, the ground floor was once used as a bank. Dozens of crumbling teller windows are faintly visible through filthy windows from the side walk on Market Street.  I still had a long drive before my lunch appointment in Columbus, so I reluctantly left the rest of Lima for a future visit.

Thunder Road Drive-In

I wasn’t planning on stopping, but when I saw the 57 Buick, painted up like a police car in front of this brand new 1950’s style takeout, I had to stop for a quick photo or two.  Refused financing for his dream, Leroy Roby built this burger joint by hand, taking almost 4 years to do it, opening on Memorial Day, 2009.   It certainly wallows in nostalgia, but it’s a contemporary take on the classic American drive-in.   Maybe 70 years from now, one of my grandkids will happen upon this place and decide that its a fine example of early 21st century kitsch.

Additional photos appear in my Lima photo gallery.  The GoogleMap below can be zoomed to taste.

One Response to “Kewpee is alive and well in Lima, Ohio”

  1. KIDPLASTIK » Lima, Ohio Says:

    […] Read more about Lima Tags: america, kewpee, lima, ohio, travel This entry was written by Drew and posted on August 27, 2010 at 10:03 pm and filed under Text. Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post. Post a comment or leave a trackback: Trackback URL. […]