Goodnight Raleigh - a look at the art, architecture, history, and people of the city at night

Downtowner Motor Inn, Raleigh, N.C.

Raleigh Downtowner_web

This week’s Flashback Friday postcard is a colorful depiction of Raleigh’s Downtowner Motor Inn, one of the handful of urban motels that once dotted the downtown area in the 1960s.

Raleigh Downtowner_back_web

Downtowner Motor Inn
309 Hillsboro St
Raleigh, North Carolina

Combined advantages of Motel and Hotel facilities in a Downtown location. 82 Spacious Rooms — Free T.V. — Heated Swimming Pool — Free Parking — No Tipping — Candlelight Restaurant — Free TWX Reservation Service. For the finest in accommodations Phone: 833-5771

That ‘free TV’ was color TV, I’m sure — Nonetheless, the description of the Raleigh Downtowner says it all!

This week’s card was postmarked on April 11, 1967.

Hi: Hope all is well with the two of you. I’m fine, & am working here. Head housekeeper, and am living at 410 Elm St. Raleigh. Thought you might like a card & stamp.

Love,
Lillian

Love the way ‘Lillian’ crossed out the motel’s address and wrote over it her own. I wonder how her tenure as head housekeeper at the Downtowner worked out?

The Thing About the Downtowner Motor Inn

The Downtowner Corporation was organized in 1958 in Memphis, TN. The chain targeted downtown business districts in medium-sized cities throughout the South and Midwest as the focus location for its motels.

Downtowner Motor Inns opted to locate near larger established hotels with the aim to accommodate room shortages during conventions, trade shows and other similar big-draw events.

The company embraced a modernist architectural style as their building brand, characteristically using a grid pattern of colorful panels as their signature street facade.

downtowner_Columbia SC_web

These two 1960s chrome postcards depict the Columbia, SC Downtowner Inn, above; below, the Downtowner Motor Inn in Wheeling, WV bears a striking resemblance to the Raleigh Downtowner.

DowntownerInn-1967 Wheeling WV

Before It Was Raleigh’s Downtowner

Raleigh’s Downtowner was erected in 1964 at 309 Hillsboro St., once the site of the grand Jeremiah Stainback residence.

State Archives of North Carolina photo

State Archives of North Carolina photo

The Jeremiah Stainback residence at 309 Hillsboro St, ca 1905.

The Victorian era house had been built on Raleigh’s fashionable residential Hillsboro St. in the 1890s. Jeremiah Stainback acquired it around 1903, and lived there with his family until the mid 1920s.

By 1927 a partnership of five local physicians bought the property, and, with one of the partners living in residence, occupied the mansion for nearly 35 years.

The Rise and Fall of Raleigh’s Downtowner Motor Inn

Raleigh City Directories listed the former Stainback lot as ‘vacant’ in 1962, ‘under construction’ in 1963, and finally as the ‘Downtowner Motor Inn and Candlelight Restaurant’ in 1964. Sadly, though, too much, too late.

As Raleigh’s downtown business district declined during the late 1960s and into the 1980s, so did its urban motels, including, among others, the Raleigh Cabana Motel, the Heart of Raleigh Motel, the Raleigh TraveLodge and the Raleigh Downtowner Motor Inn.

Raleighs_Heart_of_Raleigh_Motel_Raleigh_NC_web

The Heart of Raleigh Motel opened about 1960 in the repurposed Faircloth Hall, a onetime dormitory on the former downtown Meredith College campus.

By 1973 the motel had been renamed the Golden Eagle Motor Inn. From 1977 to 1978 the Downtowner name was back. In 1979, following a corporate merger, it was rebranded the Downtowner/Eagle Motor Inn. Then for two years, 1980-82, it operated under the name Downtowner/Capital Motor Inn. As the decline continued, the motel became an EconoLodge Motel, 1983-89; and finally, 1990-92, a Friendship Inn.

By that time the former Downtowner was a lost cause and could no longer maintain any measure of profitability.  The hulking and deteriorating building, which had long lost its bright modernist color scheme, was demolished in 1993. The site of this once vibrant urban motel today is a parking lot.

 

Our Flashback Friday photochrome postcard this week was printed by the Curt Teich Co. of Chicago under the trade name ‘CurTeichColor.’

Curt Teich Co. (1893-1974)  Chicago, IL

A major publisher and printer. Their U.S. factories turned out more cards in quantity than any other printer. They published a wide range of national view-cards of America and Canada. Many consider them one of the finest producers of White Border Cards. The Linen Type postcard came about through their innovations as they pioneered the use of offset lithography. They were purchased by Regensteiner Publishers in 1974 which continued to print cards at the Chicago plant until 1978.

Curt Teich logo

 

“Flashback Friday” is a weekly feature of Goodnight, Raleigh! in which we showcase vintage postcards depicting our historic capital city. We hope you enjoy this week end treat!

 


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