Vacancy: The Motels of U.S. Highway 301
In the 1950s, the last stretch of U.S. Highway 301 was completed, a stretch of asphalt running from Baltimore to Sarasota. For the first time, folks in the northeast had an easy, well-marked road that led them out of their known, mundane world and into a paradise of sunburn and citrus fruit.
Nearly every town along the route bloomed with motels that offered travellers the two greatest comforts – air conditioning and TV – something many didn’t even have at home.
The first motels -- motor hotels -- were just lodging, shelter for the night. Then, in the 60s, Gidget went surfing. Jeannie washed up on Coco Beach. The simple pitch of hot water and showers gave way to the marketing appeal of bare-legged babes stretched out by the pool, fun for the whole family, and spacious rooms with interior decoration that would make Hef and Sinatra feel at home.
Then came the interstates. It’s an old story. These were roads with no delays and the travellers were happy to have them. Speed meant more time in the water. The pools, the vibrating beds, the swingsets and sliding boards went wanting. Eventually the roofs caved in on the memories of kids now grown. The neon lights flickered and died.
But a long, low building of cinderblock and brick can be a hard thing to move. Nobody swims here any more, but up and down "the Florida highway" many still survive. Some are repurposed mutants, others just empty and lifeless, places haunted by the restless specter of past pleasures, rooms in ruins in towns where nobody cares.
These images are made by combining my original photography with period postcards. Each image consists of one photo and one postcard -- no cutting and pasting, no collage. The only tool I use to merge the two is the eraser, the one most appropriate when exploring the places along the American roadside where past ideals and present realities stop for coffee.
VACANCY is an ongoing project.