There’s a song by Tracy Lawrence called Time Marches On. The chorus goes like this:
A star is born, a star burns out
The only thing that stays the same is
Everything changes, everything changes
Living outside of Washington, DC, this lyric is all too accurate. Things that seem to be staples of the community oftentimes seem to disappear overnight. You notice something interesting. You know that it has some historical significance. You make a mental note to photograph it. By the time you get to it though, it could very well be gone.
This happened with the Towne Motel. It had been in its spot since the 1950s. Close your eyes and imagine a ‘U’ shaped motel of that era and you have it. According to the people who had stayed there, it was very well run and affordable. Something you do not always get in this area. Problem is, everything changes and around it, older neighborhoods of brick duplexes were being torn down and replaced with massive, boring, town homes, each one selling for more than the one before. The starting “in the low $600s” signs everywhere made me laugh. “Low $600’s? Hell, I will write a check right now!”
Anyway, the point is that the land around the Towne Motel was appreciating quickly, so I knew I needed to get a photo or two of it before it was gone. But I was too late. Holiday Inn (despite there being a hotel directly across the street from it apparently bought the site and blew it apart faster than I can disassemble by daughter’s Frozen Lego castle.
Opportunity missed, but lesson learned.
Next door to the now missing motel is a small, out of place restaurant. It is currently Asian Wok Café but it has been a few other things since its construction in the 1940s, a fact which its design shows. It serves Asian cuisine but looks more like a bar that the Keebler Elves would use to drown their sorrows when their tree home bakery is torn down to make space for that new 7-11. Little known fact, there are about 15 Keebler Elves, but we never hear or see them. Probably hit the sauce too hard in this very building so they’ve been excommunicated. But I digress.
The Asian Wok sits on a plot of land right next to the hole that used to be the motel. I saw a motel melt away into dump trucks and I have a suspicion that Asian Wok will be next. It gets great reviews and the food is quite delicious, but I know that good reviews and good food will not save it. It is destined to become a set of town homes whose developers will undoubtedly keep the ‘spirit’ of the building alive in their new project. You know, maybe they will save a bright green shingle or two and integrate them into the roof line of whatever blandness comes next.
I realize that I am an old man yelling at clouds with this. I am concerned that in this rush for bigger and better things, we are needlessly discarding a heritage and history that can be saved, or at least left alone. As an owner of property, I can see that the amount of money to be made from selling the land is massive. I just hope they resist for a little longer. I will miss seeing the eccentric little roadside restaurant every day.
Jarrod Hills is a high school teacher, father, and a fan of everything on wheels, being outside, and capturing family moments.
Jarrod has written some lovely guest articles for the site in the past, which can be seen here.
Many thanks to Jarrod for their contribution to Single Shot Stories!
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