Dr. Patrick’s Postcard Roadside

Richmond Rest-Over

“Third Night, May 15, 1952.” On the pre-Interstate road to Florida, Richmond, Virginia, was a day away from most Northeastern cities and two days away from the rest.

South from Richmond it was a long way to anywhere, making Richmond the place to rest-over. The legacy of Richmond’s rest-over role is a pile of postcards depicting long gone motels and tourist courts like the Brook Run Lodge on US 1 north of the city limits.


Federal Routes 1 and 301, the main north-south roads through Richmond, joined on the northern city limits where one of two major motel strips operated. The routes ran concurrent over the Lee Bridge across the James River to a second motel strip along the Jefferson Davis Highway on the southside of Richmond.


Royall’s Tourist Camp operated on what was known as the Washington Highway, which in 1926 became US 1, the Atlantic Seaboard’s main road from Maine to Florida. Paving was completed on the section of Route 1 between Richmond and Washington in 1927, the year this postcard was sent, explaining; “This is where Billy stayed overnight going and coming from the South.”


The expansive Richmond Auto Court with its 24-hour Esso service station and Colonial Dining Room was the king of the northside Route 1 rest-overs. When suburban sprawl replaced long-distance traveler services, its location at 7204 Brook Road became a shopping center.


The meat and produce served at the Wigwam Restaurant and Motor Court came from proprietor I. O. Keeton’s 400-acre farm located on US 1 seven miles north of Richmond. Naturally, the Wigwam’s specialties were exactly what Yankee motorists were looking for; Southern fried chicken and Virginia ham.


Route 1 and 301 joined on the northern border of Richmond at the intersection of Azalea Avenue and Chamberlayne Road where Chamberlayne Motel was built in the popular Southern motel mode of a mini-Mount Vernon. It is one of the few accommodations in Richmond’s northside motel strip that still stands.


The White House Motor Lodge was a more substantial mini-Mount Vernon motel that is still in business in Richmond’s southside Jefferson Davis Highway motel strip.


Ford’s Motor Court was a collection of Tudor-styled, knotty-pine cabins that sold traditional domesticity along US 1-301 halfway between Richmond and Petersburg. Their postcard tag line was, “East to Find – Hard to leave.”


In contrast to Ford’s, nearby Moore’s Brick Cottages sold modernity to travelers on US 1-301 in 1941 with its streamlined air-conditioned restaurant and “Modern Cottages.”


Whereas US 1 was the Main Street that linked the cities of the Northeast Megalopolis with Raleigh, Columbia, Jacksonville and the cities of Florida’s Atlantic coast, paralleling US 301 bypassed every city except Richmond, ending up in Sarasota, Florida, by going through nothing larger than Fayetteville, North Carolina. Emporia, Virginia, depicted on this 1950 postcard through the gateway arches of a reinforced concrete rainbow bridge, was typical of the small southern towns served by US 301.

The Richmond Rest-Over was fundamentally altered by the 1958 opening of the Richmond-Petersburg Turnpike, the first segment of Interstate 95 built to bypass US 1 in Virginia. The northside Routes 1-301 motel strip was buried by suburban sprawling retailers. The southside motel strip limps along as a low-budget alternative with easy access to I-95.

BEARTOOTH HIGHWAY TO YELLOWSTONE, MONTANA-WYOMING.

The road ended in Red Lodge, Montana, before the Beartooth Highway was hacked across 64 miles of western mountains in 1931-36 to bring Yellowstone-bound auto tourists to this remote corner of the Montana-Wyoming borderlands.

A pile of postcards followed preserving the appearance of the Beartooth and the small towns of Red Lodge, Cooke City, and Silver Gate as they welcomed their first wave of tourists in the 1930s and 1940s.

Bars and cafes line a 1946 Broadway in Red Lodge, Montana, gateway to the Beartooth Highway and the Northeastern Entrance to Yellowstone National Park 64 miles away.

Porcelain metal box signs followed the tourists to Red Lodge, Montana, after the 1936 opening of the Beartooth Highway. Neon beckoned out-of-towners to the Chief Hotel, Beartooth Bar & Grill and the Red Lodge Café.

More 1946 neon on Red Lodge’s South Broadway advertising the Old Star Bar, Natali Café, Wagon Wheel Bar, the Green Derby, and the Roman Theater opened in 1917.

Founded in 1884 as a Northern Pacific coal mine town, Red Lodge, Montana, started mining tourists after the coal ran out in the 1920s. The See ‘Em Alive Zoo opened soon after the 1936 completion of the Beartooth Highway to Yellowstone.

The Red Lodge Tourist Park was just one of several overnight accommodations that could be found in Red Lodge, Montana, in the 1930s and 1940s before or after the long drive to Yellowstone.

Red Lodge’s 4th of July rodeo was the big event of the year, perfectly timed to catch Yellowstone-bound auto tourists wanting something uniquely Western. Red Lodge was home to the Riding Greenoughs, a family of rodeo performers famous in the 1920s-40s.

West from Red Lodge, Montana, the Beartooth Highway followed Rock Creek to a wall of switchbacks that carried the road over the Beartooth Mountains.

West of Red Lodge, Montana, the road to Yellowstone crested the Beartooth Mountains 10,942 feet above sea level.

Celebrated in 1936 as a “well-oiled, 6% grade, high-gear road,” the Beartooth Highway was (and still is) narrow, winding and not likely to be open before June. Still, early-season tourists were thrilled to drive through the road’s alpine snow chasms.

Rather than pointing out highway deficiencies, Dead Man’s Curve, Mae West Curve, tight switchbacks and lofty Lookout Point celebrated the death-defying engineering achievement of having any road at all in such a mountainous wilderness.

All of Cooke City, Montana, on one postcard; three bars and a grocery store.

LIVE POSTCARD POSERS AT CYPRESS GARDENS.

Landscape painters posed people in their creations to provide scale and dynamic human interaction.

Postcards publishers did the same with their panoramic landscapes, scale-confusing show cave interiors, and motel pools that could look dreary and bleak without people. At Cypress Gardens, however, the postcard posers were live and framing Florida’s most famous tropical attraction all the time. It was like walking into a three-dimensional postcard. Opened along the banks of Winter Haven’s Lake Eloise by Dick and Julie Pope in 1936, Cypress Gardens added “Southern Belle” posers in 1940 who became as famous as the flowers. Here, electric boat tourists and a stroller making his own snapshot postcard, frame up the garden’s “Throne of Citrus Royalty.” The postcard back explains; “when the throne is not being used by Florida Citrus Queens visitors can make pictures of their friends and family as they sit on the throne and reign as King or Queen for a day,” becoming their own postcard poser.