Spending the Night on the Pike

If you could travel back 60-70 years, Jefferson Davis Highway would look much different than it does today. Oh, it would still be asphalt, but a pleasant drive through massive wood and passed cottages and motels so cute they’d yell at you to stop to stay for the night.

Tim O’Gorman had a nostalgic feeling about the Pike, but even rose-colored glasses couldn’t allow him to see past how the Pike has changed. So he wrote the book “Spending the Night on the Pike” about how romantic it once was.  In the 1950s Route 1 was the major route between Maine and Florida; interstates were only dashed lines on a map. Mr. O’Gorman is planning another book, which will trace the tourist courts from the Virginia state line in the north to the southern Virginia border.

Through old postcards and current photographs Mr. O’Gorman tells the story of the heyday of the Pike.

O’Gorman said what inspired him to start collecting postcards and researching the old cottages and motels was “a postcard of a tourist court that I had noticed shortly after moving to Chester 20 years ago, one that I passed everyday on my way to work along Jefferson Davis Highway.”

That tourist court is still in existence at Route 1 and Harrowgate Road. In 1945 it was called Andrews Modern Cottages. Currently the old tourist court is called the Shops at Ivey and most businesses sell antiques, which is appropriate.

Postcards have gone the way of drive-ins and the Edsel. O’Gorman said we have lost something there. “Many places you went had postcards, but now there is no use for them other than collecting,” which is one of his hobbies.

Route 1 became Historic Route 1 a few years ago and O’Gorman did much of his research at the Virginia Historical Society and the Chesterfield Historical Society.

“People became more demanding as time went on so gradually this whole way that we lived  grew into what we expect from tourist courts and motels,” O’Gorman said. “People wanted air condition and indoor heat and those were a step up in the 50s.”

“There was an architectural survey that was done back in 1979 by the Virginia Historical Resources Project that ended up in a book but they completely missed this altogether,” O’Gorman said. “Looking at the Roadrunner [Convenience Store just south of West Hundred Road] again, you can still tell it was Casey’s Tourist Cottages”

As a reader pages through “Spending the Night on the Pike” they experience “Oh my God” moments when they spot a place they spent as a kid or recognize something that is still standing and in use, and that if they look closely, realize how the place has changed.

Some of the old hospitality establishments have not changed at all; they only are being used differently. Some haven’t changed a bit; consider the White House on the Pike.

If you’d like to see more postcards of the Pike or any genre you can imagine, this weekend you will have a place to browse and just maybe buy Tim O’Gorman’s book.

One of the few ways you can see or purchase a postcard is at a postcard show, one of which will be taking place on Friday and Saturday this weekend at John Tyler Community College from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m on Friday and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday.

O’Gorman will be signing his book during the show.

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