191212ind History

The former location of Gillian’s Ale House in North Kingstown, pictured at left, currently stands vacant but it hasn’t always been that way. Built in 1933 as Hunts Pine Tree Lodge, the property has undergone a variety of ownership changes in its history.

Over the years we’ve taken a look at the inns and taverns of old Wickford, the grand hotels at Cold Spring and Saunderstown, and the area’s first true motel run by local character Bob Bean. Today we are going to turn our attention to the Motor Court, a concept whose roots are linked with America’s growing love for the automobile in the 1930’s and 40’s and its impact on the “family vacation.”

You see, the Motor Court was all about replicating the conveniences of the family home, while you were off on vacation touring the highways and byways of American in your grand automobile. Typically a motor court consisted of a group of cabins, individual little family homes as it were, that you could pull right up to just like driving up into the family driveway. There was always a gas station right on site so you and the missus and kids would not have to wait a moment to get on with your adventure and heck, the best motor courts had both individual kitchenettes and a nice family restaurant. That way you could get either a home-cooked meal in the cabin or sit down to a fine spread that mom didn’t have to prepare. As you can imagine, as the American family fully embraced the auto and the freedom that it afforded, Motor Courts began to spring up all across the country.

Here in North Kingstown we had two fine examples of this genre. The first opened in 1933 and was called Hunts Pine Tree Lodge. It was run by a retired Outlet Department Store worker named Edmund Hunt and his wife Lydia. They purchased a small farm property on the Post Road just south of the Stony Lane intersection from the widow Ida Fitzgerald in 1932 and constructed 15 cabins, a small filling station and turned a portion of the existing house, in which they lived, into a small restaurant. You can be seen it in 1930s postcard sold at the Lodge and taken before the great widening and straightening of Post Road occurred. At the time of those photo postcards, Post Road ran on what we now know as Huling Road. When Edmund died unexpectedly in 1946 Lydia sold the place to John and Virginia Gray, who ran it as a Motor Court for a time, but then tore down some of the cabins and constructed a motel in their place. Gray’s motel still included the old farmhouse as a restaurant and, as a matter of fact, Ida Fitzgerald’s old home is still there, incorporated into the larger structure we now know as Gillian’s.

In 1944 the Hunt’s got some competition when Armand Gadoury, a retired textile worker from West Warwick, opened up Green Acres Motor Court just north of Hunts Pine Tree Lodge and immediately south of the Wickford Lanes, with his wife Katheryne on farmland he purchased from John and Alice O’Hare. It had about a dozen cabins along with two small motel-like units and, of course, a filling station and small restaurant. In 1958 Gadoury, too, got into the motel business when he opened the Kingstown Motel, as well. The Green Acres Motor Court, although demolished, can be remembered by the filling station which has been drastically remodeled into one of Post Road’s less attractive buildings seen here in the accompanying photo.

So, now in the 21st century, with North Kingstown coming full circle with the construction on QDC land of its first hotel since the Cold Spring and Saunders Houses closed decades upon decades ago, let’s not forget the age when hopping into the Chevy or Plymouth with mother and the kids and taking off to explore America was every family’s dream.

The author is the North Kingstown town historian. The views expressed here are his own.

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