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Another Howard Johnson’s bites the dust…

June 29, 2004, 12:03 AM

It’s sad… in the same month, Palace Amusements in Asbury Park, New Jersey bites the dust (see my related quote article), and then the old Howard Johnson’s restaurant in Harrisonburg also gets demolished.

First of all, in its time as a Howard Johnson’s, it looked like this, as seen in these photos from Autoage.org

Howard Johnson's in Harrisonburg while open

Howard Johnson's in Harrisonburg while open

Then the restaurant and the motor lodge both closed in 2001 when JMU bought the property. The idea was to use the property ultimately as a new parking facility after I-81 is widened, since JMU will lose an existing lot due to the Interstate expansion. In the interim, JMU refitted the motor lodge for dorms and offices, used the gate lodge for storage, and the restaurant sat unused (due to asbestos), with the orange roof painted white. During this time, the restaurant looked like this, as seen in my photos from last November…

Howard Johnson's in Harrisonburg, October 9, 2003

Howard Johnson's in Harrisonburg, October 9, 2003

Kinda sad looking, eh?

Anyway, in the spring of 2004, I learned that JMU was no longer going to be using Rockingham Hall. The reason, according to an article in The Breeze (click to view the article), was because in order to renew the occupancy permit, renovations were required to be made, which were “cost-prohibitive”. In other words, JMU is planning to tear down the facility anyway, and so why spend money to improve a facility you bought with the intention of tearing down.

As part of this permit problem, JMU is relocating all offices from Rockingham Hall to elsewhere, and seeking to demolish the motor lodge and the gate lodge.

So some time between June 5 (when I went to DC for that protest) and June 23 (my most recent DC trip), JMU leveled the restaurant. I always take a look at the HoJo’s in Harrisonburg as I drive by, it being right next to the highway and all. I was so surprised when, after seeing the motor lodge and the gate lodge that had been shorn of its signature Orange Roof in 1998, I saw a pile of rubble where the restaurant was supposed to be! I did a double take then, and then, after a quick trip to the Wal-Mart in Harrisonburg to get a power inverter (word to the wise: charge your Big Mavica before you leave home), I actually backtracked along University Boulevard to Port Republic Road to make sure I was seeing what I thought I saw. And there it was. A big pile of rubble including bits of roof tile with the orange showing through. How sad. However, the saddest part was seeing the base that held the long-since-removed cupola laying on the ground, all bent out of shape. (The cupola was removed when JMU acquired the property and painted the roof white)

It will really be a shame to see the old Howard Johnson’s complex go, but considering the improvements that had to be made to keep the building operating, plus with JMU’s intentions to use the property for a parking lot rather than for a building, it seems that the hand of fate has finally shuttered the old Howard Johnson’s for good.

But at least we still have our memories of the restaurant, with people remembering it as a very vibrant restaurant, during its decline, through the three years that JMU owned the restaurant where it sat shuttered, and finally in 2004, demolition.

Web site: The Harrisonburg HoJo's, as seen on autoage.org

Song: Don't have one

Quote: "They tore it down!?! Whoa..."

Categories: Howard Johnson's, JMU