Georgia Welcome Center, 1961, Screven County

The oldest active welcome center in the nation was commissioned in 1960, built in 1961, and opened in 1962. The Space Age architecture was meant to be Georgia’s way of announcing to travelers that it was embracing the modern world.

Governor S. Ernest Vandiver was convinced that tourism was destined to become one of Georgia’s biggest industries and hired Statesboro architect Edwin C. Eckles to create something a bit out of the ordinary. Located just across the Savannah River from the South Carolina state line on busy U. S. Highway 301, the Welcome Center was well-positioned to carry out this mission in the era before interstate highways. Women were hired as “hostesses” to welcome weary travelers and to suggest they visit landmarks throughout the state.

Changing travel patterns mean fewer people come through these days, but hopefully, this relic of the space age will be around for a long time to come.

National Register of Historic Places

2 thoughts on “Georgia Welcome Center, 1961, Screven County

  1. csaxt

    I first read about the welcome center in an article many years ago. One lady ran the place for like 35 years (I don’t recall exactly). She told stories of how the yankees passing through would look over the counter to see if she had shoes on, and was amazed they had teeth. The first time I stopped, I asked the man now working there if he happened to know her – he said “yes, she hired me 27 years ago!”. He said he was a salesman and would stop there occasionally just to visit and get a coke on his way out of town. He said he was in there one day complaining about the rigors of being a salesman and being away from his family so much. So they offered him a job and he never left. That’s been 4 or 5 years ago. He may be retired now. If not, he’s getting close to matching her time at the welcome center.

    We stayed and listened to stories for a good 45 minutes. It was so nice to be able to get a glimpse of the past from someone who actually experienced it. It was amazing to hear just how crowded the welcome center was in a bygone era.

    PS. The old 301 bird trail is also very interesting. I have photographed it many time. It’s awesome to stand at the end where the bridge would have been and see the old bridge still sitting there in the river – just waiting to be spun back around and starting carrying cars across again. It’s like a ghost.



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