A burger joint called White Tower 1

The White Tower at 107-15 Continental Ave. in Forest Hills, winter 1939.

White Tower Hamburgers was founded in 1926 in Milwaukee. Its white fortress structure is considered an imitator of White Castle. The chain was so successful it expanded to 10 major cities. During the Great Depression it was selling hamburgers for 5 cents.

In 1929 White Castle sued White Tower in Minnesota for unfair competition. White Tower countersued in Michigan, as it had arrived there first. White Castle won the Minnesota case in 1930 and also won the Michigan case in 1934.

White Tower had deliberately copied White Castle’s building design, slogans and name. It now had to change to an art deco look. White Castle and White Tower stayed away from each other from that point on.

White Tower entered the Forest Hills market early on, in the mid-1930s, on busy Continental Avenue, aka 71st. Across Queens, it also had locations in Astoria, Sunnyside, Jamaica and Queens Village. Forest Hills was known as store No. 26.

By the mid-1950s, White Tower had 230 locations in several states. On its 50th anniversary, the company changed its name to Tombrock Corp. and started a chain of steakhouses called Brock’s. The Tombrock Corp. has since exited the restaurant business and today is a real estate investment company based in New Canaan, Conn.

The Forest Hills White Tower closed its doors in 1971. Today, in its place, is HSBC bank. While most know that firm by its initials, fewer know they derive from Hong Kong Shanghai Banking Corp.

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