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Jarratt Motel & Restaurant - Jarratt, Virginia


For most of its length between Petersburg and Emporia, Virginia, a two-lane US 301 runs immediately parallel to the southbound lanes of Interstate 95.  While four lanes of traffic zip by at 70+ miles per hour, US 301 runs just off the shoulder at a slower speed.   Though much of this stretch of highway is through rural farmlands, there are leftover - often abandoned - relics from when a four-lane US 301 carried motorists south to the Atlantic Coast or back to their northeastern homes.

The Jarratt Motel circa 1940s.  It was a classic-style motel. (Digital Commonwealth - Massachusetts Collection Online)

A popular location for lodging was the tiny town of Jarratt, where at a minimum; three old-style motor courts were found along US 301 - the Jarratt, Colonial, and Resté.  Each of these motels had lodging, a pool, and a restaurant.  In the late 1950s, US 301 was widened to four lanes through the sleepy Southside Virginia town.  In the decades to come, all three would be bypassed, forgotten, abandoned, or fell into disrepair.

Remnants of the Jarratt Motel in February 2011.

Throughout the 1960s and '70s, Interstate 95 was built through Southside Virginia, using two of the four lanes that carried US 301.  The fully controlled access highway eliminated the roadside gas stations, restaurants, and lodging that were once commonplace on Highway 301.  For over a decade, the slowly built Interstate dumped southbound traffic onto US 301 just north of town, and the first establishments drivers saw were the Jarratt Motel and Restaurant on their right and the Colonial Motel on their left.

The neon sign for the office was still hanging on.

In 1981, that all changed when Interstate 95 finally bypassed Jarratt on its way south towards the Carolinas.

The locations of the Colonial, Jarratt, and Resté Motels.  Interstate 95 would bypass Jarratt in the early 1980s greatly impacting the business at all three locations. (Adam Prince)

The Jarratt Motel appears to date to the 1930s, as linen postcards give the best hint to the cars and signage of the era.  Later postcards have the motel and restaurant open well into the 1970s, as travelers - having to use US 301 due to an incomplete Interstate 95 - still regularly stopped here.

The Colonial Motel was across US 301 from the Jarratt Motel and possibly promoted the Jarratt Restaurant. (Digital Commonwealth - Massachusetts Collections Online)

After the Interstate opened, patronage dropped - the Colonial eventually shuttered, followed by the Jarratt.  The restaurant may have stayed open longer.  By early 2011, what was once the Colonial Motel was grown in.  The Jarratt Motel was nearly completely hidden by underbrush and pines.  The old Jarratt Restaurant was still standing, and its old sign was visible on the lightly traveled US 301.  We didn't locate it that day - but the old Jarratt Motel neon sign remained, hidden behind the overgrowth.


The Resté Motel, a few miles south, is still in operation, but its Eifel Tower sign and restaurant are long gone.  

The awful conditions inside the former Jarratt Restaurant in February 2001.

The old Jarratt Motel had to have been empty for years, and it had been overrun by squatters when I explored it in early 2011.  I am curious if the restaurant was shared with the Colonial as old Colonial Motel postcards mention 'Jarratt Restaurant.'  If you have more details, old postcards, or photos, of any of the three motels discussed, please leave a comment or send me an e-mail.

All photos taken by post author - February 26, 2011 unless otherwise noted.

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