Established in 1932, US Highway 301 was promoted as the fastest route to Florida for East Coasters looking for some fun in the sun. 301 still takes travelers to Florida, but the Interstate took most of the traffic away…which of course, suits me just fine.
US 301 today has a few traffic-filled towns, but the majority of the old highway is full of neon signs, abandoned buildings, mid-century roadside motels and small towns with local diners serving up tasty food. Think of it as East Coast’s “Route 66” but without a cool song and a TV show.
The first time I traveled 301 to Florida was in 1992. I rode my old Harley dresser down to see my parents. In South Carolina, just before the Georgia line, an elevated ghost section of 301 to the left caught my eye. Then my mind was blown.
This elevated, abandoned section of US 301 was supported by WOODEN trusses, and ended at an old abandoned bridge crossing the Savannah River at the Georgia state line.
Not any old abandoned bridge, but a TURNSTILE abandoned bridge! I had no idea there was such a thing. All the bridges I’d seen with water traffic were “up and down” drawbridges, enabling boats and barges to pass. This bridge didn’t go “up and down,” it ROTATED left and right!
Last year I fell down the Internet rabbit hole and learned the spot is known as the Burton’s Ferry Bridge. It carried travelers from 1938 until 1965, when a fixed bridge took its place. It’s been abandoned - and the turnstile open - ever since.
Most of the Georgia-side of the roadbed is gone, but a 1.5 mile elevated abandoned section on the South Carolina side is now a nature trail, ending with a view of the old turnstile section of the bridge, where the watchtower has been waiting for someone to look out it’s windows for 58 years.
Always up for some roadside archaeology, Levi and I went exploring along US 301 in July. It was in South Carolina, we did a quick “drive-by (photo) shooting” in the tiny town of Ulmer SC.
Ulmer is a bit less than 3 square miles in size, the population hovers around 100. If you blink you’ll miss it.
But back in the middle of 20th Century America, Ulmer was a busy stop along US 301 for northerners on their way to and from the Sunshine State.
Owned and operated by Talmage Angle and his wife Virta, the Monticello offered such luxuries as a tile bath, a tub and shower and steam heat…IN EACH ROOM!
In June of 1970, someone at the Monticello was selling a 1960 Cadillac hearse and a set of professional Gretsch drums. I wish there was a photo of that!
Hard times hit South Carolina mom and pop businesses along 301 in the middle of the 1970’s. Interstate 95 was completed thru the state, shortening the trek for Florida bound travelers by an hour and half.
Talmage and Virta? They sold the Monticello Motel and retired to Danville City Virginia. He passed in 1971 at 67 years of age, Virta made it to 90 and passed in 2007.
In later life, the Monticello became the Connelly Motel, with “bikers, hunters and truckers welcomed.”
Since the Connelly closed, time and weather have done their part and the sign out front again advertises the Monticello Motel.
Today, the old gal sits abandoned, waiting for US 301 to get travelers once again.