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.
It looked like it was still in business.
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.
Across the road was another abandoned motel, then one more down the road.
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.
5 thoughts on “The Tobacco Trail through Allendale County”
I really enjoy your extensive coverage of 301 ! My first experience on 301 was way back in ’89 when I traveled from Greenville to Daytona. I certainly wish I had taken pictures back then. It is amazing how much has been lost over the years. I am very happy to see that the Lobster House sign in Allendale has been fixed up! It had been neglected for many years. I also noticed that the coffee house further north has been restored. 301 is about as close to the east coast equivalent of route 66 as I think you can get. It is great to see those that are blessed to own what is left of these historic properties along the highway begin to preserve them.
The motel on the north end of Allendale on the left with a 2 story center was the Plantation Motel. There are postcard pictures of it. My family owned it from 1961-1979.
Hi Gloria: I was reading this article and the picture jogged my memory. I drove with some college buddies from Washington D.C. to Tampa for spring break in 1976 and we stayed at the Plantation Motel. The manager/owner was really nice to us (4 college boys headed south would raise suspicion on any motel owner’s part). I just remember the drive being quite an adventure in SC and GA with so many billboards, roadside businesses, and a fair amount of traffic. I am just surprised none of the cities along there has put up signs on I-95 to attract visitors to take this route south. People are so tired of driving boring freeways. Anyway, I sure wish I could take that trip again.
During my Army days in parts of 1959 and 1960 the Interstate Truck Stop was halfway between Ft. Stewart, Ga. and Columbia, SC. On weekend passes I and others in our travel group ate lunch there on Saturday heading home and supper returning to Ft. Stewart. The reason I remember this Truck Stop is the beautiful blonde waitress that worked there. Her initials were L. H.
the white building with a stoplight on front was Dukes bbq. orange building after the interstate truck stop pictures was Bonanza Mexican restaurant. everything good in this town ends up an abandoned building full of memories.
interstate truck stop is neat to wander around in. although there is a no trespassing sign on the front now, i turned it into a photo opportunity one day. as soon as you walk in, cassette tapes left on the front counter, couches, a toilet (with the seat mysteriously duct taped in the down position-to avoid any arguments ???), yarn and other sewing materials in a closet, car seats, a desk and chair in a tiny office room (?) that would drive one mad from claustrophobia, among other items eerily left behind, give this place an “abandoned, yet frozen in time” feeling.
I’ve been up and down this road all my life, and every time i see that rusted sombrero sign, it reminds me of my grandad way out in ulmer getting up from watching the tv saying, “I think I’ll go take a siesta.”