Historic Motel to Be Demolished BY Roxanne Escobales

02/28/07
WMNF Drive-Time News Friday

An award-winning Floridian author wants to save an old piece of Tampa history from a date with the wrecking ball. Connie May Fowler lived in the Travelers Lodge Motel as a child. Her experiences there led her to write the novel Before Women Had Wings, which was turned into a 1997 TV movie produced by and starring Oprah Winfrey.

 

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According to Fowler, the collection of derelict red-brick cottages from 1938 on Nebraska and 124th Avenues represent Old Florida to the fullest.

 

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But a developer has bought the land and Tuesday night the Hillsborough County Historic Resources Review Board approved his demolition permit.

 

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Archaeologist Lee Hutchinson is the board’s vice chair.

 

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The one, faded side of the sign for the Travelers Lodge Motel that’s left boasts “low rates” and “clean rooms”. Now long boarded up, the rooms lie empty, the small pool filled in and overgrown with grass, and a lonely, bare flagpole juts into the sky. According to Connie May Fowler, it wasn’t in much better shape decades ago when she lived there.

 

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Now Tri-Ban Development owns the site, and is advertising two-storey homes with prices starting at one-hundred-ninety-thousand dollars. Fowler says that reminds her of a joke.

 

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But the County Historic Resources’ Lee Hutchinson says it’s unfortunate that sometimes old buildings have to come down.

 

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The motel is not listed as an historical landmark, but it is designated as a historic resource due to Connie May Fowler’s work. Because of that, the developer has been charged with the responsibility of taking photographs of the motel before its razed. But Fowler says it’s too little too late.

 

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Connie May Fowler said she didn’t hear of the demolition until the eleventh hour, when she wrote a letter to the board, pleading for the motel to be spared. The historic board vice chair, Lee Hutchinson, says board members are dedicated to historic preservation but they saw no other solution for the Travelers’ Lodge Motel.

 

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Not so, says Fowler.

 

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It’s not clear exactly when the Travelers Lodge Motel will be torn down, but according to the St Petersburg Times, some of the houses on the property could be finished as early as the end of summer.

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