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Reduced to rubble, Hamburger Heaven gone but not forgotten

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Leila Navidi

The demolition of Hamburger Heaven on the corner of E Street and Monroe Avenue in West Las Vegas Monday, January 3, 2011.

Hamburger Heaven Demolition

The demolition of Hamburger Heaven on the corner of E Street and Monroe Avenue in West Las Vegas Monday, January 3, 2011. Launch slideshow »

Hamburger Heaven

Lynn Reid winced as a demolition backhoe clawed through the roof of an old diner on E Street in West Las Vegas. Although the eatery, Hamburger Heaven, had been closed for more than two years, the once-popular spot held countless memories for Reid and many others in her West Las Vegas neighborhood.

As a light snow descended on the valley Monday morning, Reid and others said goodbye: After more than 60 years at 1215 E St., the shuttered diner was demolished. Built in 1955, Hamburger Heaven was a spot for burgers and shakes, and for community members to get together.

For Reid, it was a moment of mixed emotions. Although she said she was glad her church, Second Baptist, which recently purchased the property, would make use of the site, Reid said it was hard to see the neighborhood joint go.

"Everybody knew Hamburger Heaven. We've missed it," she said. "It was a community landmark ... It was a meeting ground. I'm sad to see it go."

In 1966, when she was pregnant with her first child, Reid said she would send her husband, Henry, on emergency midnight runs to Hamburger Heaven for a burger and a strawberry milkshake. She also fondly recalled coming to the diner after church services on Sundays and catching up on the local gossip.

It was here she was introduced to novelties like chili fries and a taco burger, Reid said with a laugh. She remembered children sneaking off from Sunday school to grab a snack, and teenagers hanging out at the restaurant on the weekends.

With a dozen churches in the surrounding area, the dining room was always full, she said.

Fred Williams, a trustee at Second Baptist Church, said the church is planning to build a community center on the site.

According to the crowd gathered for the building's demise, the food ranged from "excellent" to "really good." J.D. Bell, who said he remembered the day the diner opened, said he particularly missed the homemade cakes and pies.

While the restaurant was reduced to a pile of plaster, brick and wood, Bell put things into perspective.

"I saw it go up and I've seen it come down," said Bell, a 50-year member of Second Baptist.

Before the demolition, the restaurant was already a shell of its former self. The kitchen had been ripped out and the ceiling had begun to cave. An old menu advertising a burger-and-fries combo for $4 sat on the black, white and green floor tile that looked like it could have been pulled from the set of a 1950s sitcom. A poster of Martin Luther King Jr. adorned one of the walls.

Bystanders paused to take pictures as the bulldozer commenced its work. Although Hamburger Heaven may be gone from the corner of Monroe Avenue and E Street, it will not be soon forgotten. Williams collected a few bricks from the rubble to be kept at Second Baptist as the rest of the old diner was swept away.

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