Thursday, June 2, 2016

What ever happened to the Forest Inn Motor Court in N.C.?

This old postcard features the Forest Inn Motor Court — "Your Home For To-night" — located on U.S. 301, four miles south of Wilson, North Carolina (home of the Wilson Tobs baseball team).

The motor court is described with the following printed text on the back:
"Attractive, Neat Units, Simmons furniture, the latest and best. Each room private bath, with shower and tub. Panel Ray Heat. Cooled by Air King. Mr. and Mrs. P. Speyser, Owners and Operators. On U.S. 301 — 4 miles South of Wilson, N.C. P.O. Box 69. Tele. Lucama 339."
The Silvercraft postcard, made by Dexter Press and published by Raines & Cox, was never mailed. However, someone wrote the following travel notes in pencil on the back: "Mar 1, 1953. $3.50 night. 4:45 time. 350 miles a day."

It's not clear whether the $3.50 refers to the cost of a room for one night at the Forest Inn Motor Court. I guess it's possible. That price in 1953 is the equivalent of about $31 today, adjusting for inflation. Cheap lodging.

When I went to do my research on the history and current status of this motel, I discovered that someone had already done the work for me! Dean Jeffrey, posting on his Dean-O-Matic blog, wrote about the Forest Inn Motor Court in the summer of 2011. He used the same vintage postcard as his jumping-off point, too. The blog post has photographs of the motel's big sign in 2002, 2010 and 2011. Here's Jeffrey's 2011 shot (used with permission), side-by-side with the how it looked in the postcard.

The sign has been put out of its misery, according to Jeffrey, who wrote this week that it was "dug up and removed about a year or so ago."

As a final note, Jeffrey, in his research, found a December 1985 Associated Press article in The News-Times of Hendersonville, North Carolina, that discusses the history of the Forest Inn Motor Court. The headline says it all: "Former brothel undergoes a drastic change of heart, Word of God Tabernacle now calls it home." The article includes this amusing anecdote about the jarring conversion that took place in the 1980s:
While the inn has undergone a facelift, apparently not everyone knows it.

One day last summer, West looked out of the window of his cabinet shop office as the preacher, one or two deacons and several women worked in the church yard. He also noticed an elderly man in an expensive new car drive by the motel several times.

"He rode by 20 or 25 times before he got the nerve to stop," he said.

The man asked the preacher if the place was open and if he could go in. Thinking he wanted to pray, the preacher gestured toward the open door. But before the man got inside, the preacher realized his mistake and explained that the motel had been converted into a church.

"Well, I'll be damned," said the man, who got in his car and drove away.

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