The Post War United States Eskimo Diner

Eskimo Diner

Standing on the northeast corner of the intersection of Eskimo Hill Road and U. S. Route 1 is a small brick building. Hundreds of cars and trucks pass by it daily on their way to the county landfill. There are few visible clues remaining to let passers-by know that this little building was one of the most recognized Stafford County landmarks of the twentieth century. This was Eskimo’s Diner, a 24-hour eatery established in 1929 by Luther S. Hodge (1902-1958). It was popular with both truckers and locals and specialized in steaks, chops, and seafood. To the immediate south of the diner was a cinderblock garage, also operated by the Hodge family. Nothing remains of that structure. The hill on which stood the diner and garage quickly became known as Eskimo Hill. Long before implementation of the 9-1-1 system forced the official naming of roads, Route 628, which runs east-west past the garage, was known to locals as Eskimo Hill Road.

Various theories have been proposed explaining the origin of the name “Eskimo.” A rather creative one is that Civil War soldiers found the area so cold that they called it Eskimo Hill. In reality, Luther Hodge’s nickname was Eskimo, which he acquired as a boy selling Eskimo Pies at theaters in Richmond. U. S.

Route 1 was constructed along its present path (more or less) in the early 1920s. U. S. Route 1 was the primary highway between Maine and Florida and during the first half of the twentieth century, countless service stations, motels, tourist cabins, lunch rooms, gift shops, and restaurants were built along its length. There were a dozen or more such establishments in Stafford alone. With improved roads also came increased business activity in the form of truck traffic. Facilities designed to meet the needs of truckers and their vehicles also flourished along Route 1. Eskimo’s Diner served truckers, tourists, and locals.

As there was no Interstate highway through Stafford County until the mid-1960s, Route 1 was an extremely busy thoroughfare. Although Eskimo Hodge opened his restaurant at the outset of the Great Depression, it thrived. He operated it himself for many years and then rented it to various people. In 1947 he leased the restaurant to Leon S. Zappas and George J. Christoforatos who operated it until about 1962. Soon thereafter, Interstate 95 opened and business along Route 1 died.

The diner building and lot were purchased in 1967 by the Fredericksburg Asphalt Company for use as a contractor’s office building. It has been used for light industry and contractors’ needs since then.