I was out exploring Highway 301, the Tobacco Trail. I had driven down early in the morning, trying to resist distractions along the way. Once I finally reached my starting point I visited two old welcome centers, one still in operation, and one finding new life. Now it was time to continue eastward. However, my day was running out, and the trip was much quicker than I would have liked.
Driving from the SC-GA border I crossed many miles of farmland on the four-lane divided highway. There had been one overgrown, abandoned service station before I got to the Welcome Center. There a few ghost signs of tourist traps, but for the most part it was just farmland.
As I reached the outskirts of Allendale I started spotting more signs of life. First up was an old truck service station.
There was an old Budget Inn that looked like it had been in business not too long ago, and a couple more motel remains that were a bit…less well kept. One looked like it was now a permanent residence.
This one with blue doors looked quite extensive.
I can’t be sure, but this looks like it might have been the Quality Courts Motel…
…and later the Town and Country Motel.
This is the one that looks more like a private, long term residence.
This one could have been the Empress Motel.
There was also the Bon-Air Courts, shown to be south of the town, but I didn’t find it…
Then…there it was. Probably the most iconic of the abandoned motels I’ve seen so far on 301. The Cresent [sic] Motel. The old sign with star is just so compelling.
I was able to find a couple of old postcards on Cardcow.com. The first must be an earlier version, because the sign doesn’t have the star.
The sign is spelled wrong in both versions of the postcard. However, on the back of the postcard it’s spelled correctly.
Here’s what it looked like when I drove by…
Allendale itself looks like a neat little town. There is a standpipe just like the ones in Walterboro and Belton. There is also a cool old movie theater. However, it’s not all rosy. One blogger, the Urban Chica, put it this way…
Approaching the outskirts of Allendale I had a sight of doomsday, one of those visions that make the effort of travel worthwhile. It was a vision of ruin, of decay and utter emptiness; and it was obvious in the simplest, most recognizable structures—motels, gas stations, restaurants, stores—all of them abandoned to rot, some of them so thoroughly decayed that all that was left was the great concrete slab of the foundation, stained with oil or paint, littered with the splinters of the collapsed building, a rusted sign leaning. Some were brick-faced, others made of cinder blocks, but none was well made and so the impression I had was of astonishing decrepitude, as though a war had ravaged the place and killed all the people.
Here was the corpse of a motel, the Elite—the sign still legible—broken buildings in a wilderness of weeds; and farther down the road, the Sands, the Presidential Inn, collapsed, empty; and another fractured place with a cracked swimming pool and broken windows, its rusted sign, “Cresent Motel,” the more pathetic for being misspelled.
Most of the shops were closed, the wide main road was littered. The side streets, lined by shacks and abandoned houses, looked haunted. I had never seen anything quite like it, the ghost town on the ghost highway. I was glad I had come.
The northeast end of town had more motels. The Allendale Motor Court was one that popped up multiple times in my post card collection.
Next to the Allendale Motor Court was the Lobster House Restaurant. There was a cool neon sign, but it looked somewhat new (the sign, not the restaurant.)
My postcard collection indicated a Holiday Inn just north of town.
UPDATE: I did find a 1950s vintage post card showing the Lobster House. So, it’s not as new as I might have thought.
From the shape of the building I think it might have been the Executive Inn, right next door to the Allendale Motor Court. It also looked like it was still in business.
I didn’t have a postcard for these. Just on out from Allendale were a couple more motels. First up was the old Siesta Court Motel.
This one was tricky. From the road I would have never matched it up with the photo I took.
I had to look in Google Earth to see the curvature of the building, and the fact that one segment is missing. The most compelling feature I found was a phantom sign that looks like it had a sombrero outline. There is a sign visible in the post card, but it’s not clear. A sombrero would be consistent with the name “Siesta.”
While scanning the postcard collection I came across several hotels that had a two-story central office with wings right and left. I had postcards for one in Olanta, and one in Summerton, but not the one I found in Allendale County. It’s built on the same plan, though. Here’s the Allendale County Motel…
…and here’s the Lewis Hotel in Olanta…
Between Allendale and Ulmer there was mostly farmland, but I found a couple of locations. I only had one of these marked on my map, though. First up was an old restaurant. Looks like not too long ago this was a very nice place.
Next door to the restaurant was a large motel. It was quite elegant, with palm trees.
I suspect that this might be the old Sun Tan Motel, but the shingles are different, and the bricks aren’t visible.
The small town of Ulmer marks the intersection of 301 with 321. For several miles traffic from Columbia to Savannah ran concurrent with traffic on the Tobacco Highway. I found several remnants along this stretch, some I had marked in my GPS, and some I stumbled on. Just on the other side of Ulmer the GPS pinged to let me know I was approaching the Interstate Truck Stop. I’ve photographed this one before – it’s fairly dramatic. I didn’t find any postcards.
There were a couple of abandoned stores across the road from Interstate.
Next door were the remains of an old motel, now falling in.
The next landmark was the Salkehatchie River, which would put me in Bamberg County. There were even more hulking remains there. That will have to wait until the next post, though.