Tag Archives: Georgia Motels & Motor Courts

Dudley Motel, 1958, Dublin

This community landmark, while in sound condition, has been closed and vacant since the 1980s and was recently named, along with Dudley’s Retreat and Amoco Station No. 2, a 2023 Place in Peril by the Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation. It’s an important resource and part of a larger story of an amazing family of entrepreneurs who provided travel options for the African-American community during the Jim Crow Era.

Mr. Herbert “Hub” Horatio Dudley (1892-1965) was the most successful black man in Dublin during his lifetime and had numerous businesses in the neighborhood. As anyone who’s seen the movie Green Book would understand, travel from town to town was dangerous during the Jim Crow Era and African-Americans relied on publications to direct them to safe places.

Mr. Dudley’s entrepreneurial spirit, along with a genuine concern for his community, led him to establish this property, which opened in 1958.

The rear of the Amoco Station [at left in this photo] was adjacent to the motel, which featured 12 rooms in several units with all the modern amenities. The Retreat cafe was also on the same property, which allowed patrons to move about more freely at a time when just being on the street after dark could be ominous. The architecture is a type of vernacular commercial construction which is quite rare in Georgia. I’ve seen similar properties in older beach communities in Florida.

As the epicenter of black culture and business in Dublin, Dudley’s Motel hosted many luminaries of the day, including Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Andrew Young, Ralph David Abernathy, Maynard Jackson, and other prominent figures.

I hope the property survives and perhaps becomes a museum or community resource center.

REFERENCE: I’ve already linked these sources in my other posts about the Dudley family, but I’ll share a list here. They will provide more detailed information: Laurens County African-American History; Herbert Dudley; Dudley Funeral Home; and the Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation.

Gordon Motor Court, Circa 1950, Sylvester

This was one of numerous motor courts along busy U.S. Highway 82 built between the 1930s and early 1960s. The wrought iron posts are obviously later additions, as they aren’t visible in the vintage postcard, below. Dr. Gordon Davis III writes: Gordon Motor Court opened in approximately 1950-1951. My family still owns the property. We closed the “motor court” in the 70’s after I-75 opened completely from Detroit to Tampa. Was named for my grandfather, Gordon Davis, Sr., my father, Gordon Davis, Jr., and me, Gordon Davis, III. Many fond memories !

Linen postcard, circa 1951. Courtesy The Tichnor Brothers Collection, Boston Public Library.



Camellia Courts, 1940s, Jesup

This is one of a few survivors of numerous motels located in and near Jesup on US 301, mostly from the 1940s-1960s. I believe it was last used as apartments. The two story building was a lounge and coffee shop (the upstairs was an office and/or residence). Carol C. Harper writes: In its heyday, when 301 was a main thoroughfare, this was “Camellia Courts”, a popular motel owned and operated by Curtis and Mabel Harper of Jesup. The Harpers were my husband’s uncle and aunt. The motel offered a restaurant, swimming pool, and beautiful camellias cultivated by Mabel and shared with guests.

A 1949 postcard from my collection also lists R. L. Harper as an owner of the property at the time. It was later known as the Mary Ann Motel.


Eden Roc Motel & Restaurant, 1958, Wayne County

Located five miles south of Jesup on US 301, the Eden Roc was a motel and restaurant owned and operated by Bill and Lila O’Leary. Thanks to Sandra Crawn for the identification; she notes that it was “a landmark indeed”.

The swimming pool (the outline of which is visible in the first photograph) as seen on a postcard from 1958, the year the motel was built.

Many such properties were located on US 301 near Jesup when it was a major north-south artery to Florida. Most thrived until the late 1960s when the construction of I-95 made them obsolete.

The original signage was larger and had a horizontal orientation. This one was probably added toward the later years of its operation.

Danny Ross Motor Court, Tifton

tifton ga highway 41 danny ross motor court sign photograph copyright brian brown vanishing south georgia usa 2016

This sign was located on US 41 near ABAC. I’m not sure if it’s still standing, but it was erected in the late 1940s or early 1950s for the Danny Ross Motor Court.

Georgian Motor Court, 1940s, Cordele

georgian motor court cordele ga art deco neon sign photograph copyright brian brown vanishing south georgia usa 2016

Jason Salter shared this history on 15 June 2010: This was built and owned by the Shearers. It was built in 1940. The owners lived in it for a time. The motel was opened in 1942. In the 50′s an office was built off to the side where it currently sits now. Another building was added too make larger rooms in 1950. In 1954 a house was built and the family moved into the house from the motel. In 1970 the land was sold to William and Inez Johnson. They operated the motel until 1982 and then it closed. Interstate 75 came through and businesses lost out to traffic there.

Ritch McCutchen writes, via Facebook: I bought the farm from the estate of Palmer Greene who had a lengthy career as a politician. He was the tax collector here for many years followed by service as a state representative then as a state senator. He sold the motel site to Mr. Shearer. Mr Shearer’s estate sold it to William Johnson a retired rural postman.

Southern Motel, Cordele

southern motel sign us 41 cordele ga photograph copyright brian brown vanishing south georgia usa 2008

I first photographed this sign in 2008. The Southern Motel was owned and managed by Mr. & Mrs. Jack Kirk. It was a modern brick motel which, judging from a 1961 postcard, was likely built in the mid to late 1950s, It’s hard to imagine that highways like U. S. 41 were the interstates before we had interstates. I’m aware that many people consider these sorts of properties and old signage nothing more than eyesores. There are others who absolutely love them. I don’t think many of them will be saved, but they’re a nice reminder of the world before interstates.

Jay Bird Springs, Dodge County

Jay Bird Springs has been a well-known recreation area since about 1907, when Georgia’s first public swimming pool was built utilizing the waters of a natural spring emanating in the adjacent Gum Swamp (Little Ocmulgee River). The water is thought to have healing qualities and has had thousands of devotees over the past century. It was so famous that it was delivered to homes and businesses throughout the region in the earliest years of the operation. The motel and welcome center seen above and the miniature golf course below are all I was able to photograph, as the facility is now a spiritually-based rehabilitation center and the residents were conducting Sunday services near the pool area. Even though the gentleman I spoke to said I could take a few quick shots, I declined out of respect. I do hope to get back at some time and get a few more shots.

Toby’s Motel & Grill, Alapaha

Alapaha GA Tobys Motel Grill Photograph Copyright Brian Brown Vanishing South Georgia USA 2015

Built to lure travelers off busy US Highway 82 (likely in the 1940s), Toby Powell’s Motel & Grill is still relatively intact. The eclectic architecture of the office/restaurant at first appears to be a crumbling facade, but it was built that way! For a time after its original use was supplanted, it served as a grocery store and Virginia’s Beauty Lounge.

Alapaha GA Tobys Motel Grill Abandoned Photograph Copyright Brian Brown Vanishing South Georgia USA 2015

Below is a contemporary postcard view.

Tobys Motel Grill Alapaha GA Postcard 1950s Vanishing South Georgia USA 2015