Landrum's Hamburger System No. 1

Landrum's came to Reno on a railroad flat car, off-loaded from the Virginia & Truckee Railroad tracks behind the property, and assembled on its present site in 1947 by Eunice Landrum, who named her new diner "Landrum's Hamburger System No. 1." The system was intended to be a chain of hamburger shops, but the original expansion plans never developed. Eunice Landrum sold the diner in 1953 to Olive Calvert, who operated it until 1986. It has had a series of owners—and uses—since then.

Roadside diners trace their roots to Providence, Rhode Island in the 1870s, but the American hamburger was born in Wichita in 1921, the brainchild of fry-cook Walt Anderson, the founder of White Castle Hamburger System. In the 1930s, diners and hamburger stands were proliferating along with America’s love of the automobile. To meet the need for easy-to-build, easy-to-clean restaurants, various companies developed porcelain-covered steel buildings with parts that bolted together. Arthur H. Valentine in Wichita was an innovator in the design and construction of hamburger stands.

All one needed was a piece of land on which to lay the foundation, and provide utility hook-ups. It was the perfect entrepreneurial activity for a country coming out of a devastating depression. These small diners made good economic sense, since they were one-man operations with limited menus. After World War II, small prefabricated diners offered ready investment opportunities for returning veterans.

Landrum's was a landmark for three generations of Reno citizens. In 1984, it was listed in the Nevada State Register of Historic Places. In recognition of the honor, Nevada's governor Richard Bryan visited Landrum's and sampled the fare. Of the hamburger, Bryan said, "The bun is fresh. The beef is tasty. The lettuce is crispy, the tomato firm, and the onion tangy." Of the diner, Governor Bryan said, "This is a Reno legend. In the 1920s and 1930s, diners like this were everywhere. This is the last of its kind. It is a part of Americana and I hope they keep it here forever."

Images

Landrum's, ca. 1980

Landrum's, ca. 1980

Landrum's Hamburger System No. 1 was the Little Chef model of diner manufactured by the Valentine Diner Company of Wichita, Kansas. With stools for eight, Landrum's was a popular local hangout. Image courtesy of Nevada State Historic Preservation Office View File Details Page

Landrum's, 1983

Landrum's, 1983

The distinctive Streamlined Moderne entrance to Landrum's Hamburger System No. 1. The exterior is made up of porcelain-enamel panels. Image courtesy of National Register of Historic Places View File Details Page

Inside Landrum's, 1986

Inside Landrum's, 1986

Area residents fondly recall the sign posted above the cash register, available as a bumper sticker: "I sat on a stool at Landrum's," pictured here in 1986. Photo courtesy of the Nevada Historical Society View File Details Page

Serving the burgers

Serving the burgers

Day waitress Jo Michette serves it up in style to Reno locals in between cooking, washing dishes, preparing food, cleaning counters and joking with the customers. Image courtesy of Special Collections, University of Nevada, Reno LIbraries | Creator: Sara Beth Morgan View File Details Page

A popular place

A popular place

Even on Sunday afternoons when traffic was light on Reno streets, Landrum's, at the intersection of Arroyo and South Virginia, was congested and sometimes backed up for hours. Image courtesy of Special Collections, University of Nevada, Reno Libraries | Creator: Sara Beth Morgan View File Details Page

Open 24 Hours

Open 24 Hours

Landrum's tiny tin building hardly compares to Reno's downtown skyscrapers, but its reputation for good food, good company and good prices was not so easily overshadowed. Image courtesy of Special Collections, University of Nevada, Reno Libraries | Creator: Sara Beth Morgan View File Details Page

Minnie Presto's secret recipe

Minnie Presto's secret recipe

Minnie Presto, a 15-year veteran chili-maker for Landrum's when this photo was taken, guarded her secret recipe as she stirred up her 40-lb. Saturday batch. Image courtesy of Special Collections, University of Nevada, Reno Libraries | Creator: Sara Beth Morgan View File Details Page

Landrum's counter

Landrum's counter

Cokes, coffee, counter-top music and a candid cook kept 'em comin' back. | Creator: Sara Beth Morgan View File Details Page

Auto Title Loan, 2002

Auto Title Loan, 2002

After Landrum's closed its doors, the building was used for a variety of businesses. In 2002, it housed an auto title loan company. Photo by Max Chapman View File Details Page

Conscious Cuisine, 2011

Conscious Cuisine, 2011

In 2011, the former Landrum's building housed a restaurant named Conscious Cuisine. It was also repainted in its original two-toned scheme. Photo by Jeffrey Beall View File Details Page

Beefy's Burgers, 2014

Beefy's Burgers, 2014

The building returned to its roots as a burger diner in 2012, reopening as Beefy's Burgers. Photo by Alicia Barber View File Details Page

Street Address:

1300 South Virginia Street, Reno, NV [map]

Cite this Page:

Mella Harmon, “Landrum's Hamburger System No. 1,” Reno Historical, accessed July 25, 2017, http://renohistorical.org/items/show/49.

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