Georgia Motels

This page is a work in progress, with all of the accompanying opportunities for misspelling and factual error. If you have any comments, suggestions, or concerns, please feel free to email us.

[camera icon] Though Interstate 75 pushes through the length of Georgia, it has little to do with the state. Just about all you can see is the overgrown remnants of trees and hillsides as the kudzu line steadily advances. Even in Atlanta, drivers can zoom through its towers and domes without ever seeing the city. For that reason, we slip onto US 19. In Hapeville, we visit the original Chick-Fil-A Dwarf House (complete with tiny doors). Further up the road, we pass the Lampost ("Black White Green or Pink -- Friendly Place to Have a Drink"). We find ourselves on Stewart and the detritus of urban failure. Prostitutes and drug dealers march past boarded up buildings under the stately promotional banners of the 1996 Olympics. All that's left of the Greenwood Motel is an aging sign.

[camera icon]Greenwood Motel

Similarly, the Oaks Motor Court has been condemned by the state. As Jenny photographs the piles of broken furniture and shattered glass, a cop comes by. Just as quickly, an old man from across the street arrives. "When's this place going to be bulldozed?" he wants to know. "I'm not at liberty to say." Urban Atlanta is a city under siege -- barbed wire, rusty gratings, and demolition equipment. Construction crews sweep away the condemned and the forgotten just in time for the Games. Only a few miles away, Buckhead reels under a gaggle of yuppie throwbacks, peach references, and trendy restaurants. Be warned: very little that you'd want costs three dollars at the Three Dollar Cafe.

We visit the Sunset Motel on Dixie Highway (image at top of the page). Only part of the neon sign is lit, so I ask the manager, Emory, if the rest can be turned on. Without blinking an eye, he explains that the wiring is old, but that the sign might light up if we hit it. So, we step into the twilight evening to hit his sign. No luck. Emory has managed the sixteen rooms here for decades and speaks fondly of his motel. "Some people couldn't live here. I couldn't live anywhere else. The trucks, the airplanes. I love 'em." He points out the surveillance cameras and emphasizes the need for constant vigilance, yet stays out with us for half an hour as we learn about the Sunset.

For much of our drive north out of Atlanta, Jenny and I stick to the older roads -- like US 41. By one in the morning, the academic search for sites becomes secondary as exhaustion sets in. We've been on the road for thirteen hours. At last, that most beautiful of visions -- the glow of an open motel -- emerges from the night. We stay at the Country Boy Inn north of Resaca. The rooms here are standard -- some prints of bamboo trees, pea soup colored vinyl chairs, and that indescribable smell that follows the first time you open the door. In the morning, I awaken to the passage of trucks and the splashing of Vienna in the pool. Jenny tells me the time by subtracting six hours and twenty minutes from the television clock.

[camera icon]Country Boy Inn

Back on the road, we ignore the constant siren song of I-75 and head for Dalton. Almost immediately, what remains of the Thomas Motel peeks out from a motley collection of parked trucks. Jenny wonders why we've found such so many motel relics in this state -- wishing that we could discover more neon. As for me, there's a strange austere beauty to these sites. The future didn't merely pass them by. It ravaged them. How many people in these parts feel the same way?

[camera icon]Thomas Motel

Along the seemingly endless row of carpet factories and outlet shops, we find the Peach State Motel. The brick building is almost overrun with weeds, but the few cars in front suggest occupancy. Across the road, chickens greet the day as Jenny sets up her shot.

Return to the lobby.

Last update: April 6, 1999. All photographs copyright © Jenny Wood. Text copyright © Andy Wood.