Retro Charlotte

Howard Johnson’s: Memories from the 1960s

Howard Johnson's at 2400 Wilkinson Boulevard in Charlotte. 1985
Howard Johnson's at 2400 Wilkinson Boulevard in Charlotte. 1985 The Charlotte Observer

The former Howard Johnson’s Motor Lodge has seen better days. Now called the Airport Parkway Inn, the adjoining restaurant is in business off and on. My favorite incarnation? A bar and grill called Who You Wit? It’s now a soul food place.

As a baby-boomer I have fond memories of eating at (and staying at) a HoJo’s as a kid. The Mad Men TV show, set in the ‘60s, had a memorable scene in a Howard Johnson’s restaurant. Ice cream, fried clams, and I swear I remember sweet cornbread cakes. The lure of the abandoned Howard Johnson’s restaurant in Rockingham led me to pull over to take photos. (see slideshow).

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But back to the origin of the HoJo at 2400 Wilkinson Blvd - Here’s an excerpt from a 1963 Observer story:

$1 Million Motel Work Begins Here

“...The motor inn will have 85 rooms and will open next winter. In late winter of early spring an additional 31 rooms will be built in a structure to be erected at the rear of the inn. The first unit of the motor inn will be three stories high and of brick construction. ... The restaurant will seat about 140 persons and will be known as the Lamplighters Room. It will be the largest Howard Johnson restaurant in North Carolina.”