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No more gate lodge for the old Howard Johnson’s in Harrisonburg…

July 30, 2005, 11:05 PM

Going through Harrisonburg on my way up to Pennsylvania on Thursday’s road trip, I noticed something unusual out my right window. At the site of the former Howard Johnson’s in Harrisonburg (which, according to both official and unofficial sources, is being upgraded in order for it to be used as a dorm again due to capacity issues), another building had bitten the dust. Recall that on October 9, 2003, I photographed the old Howard Johnson’s as Rockingham Hall – perhaps the last photos ever made of the complex while still whole. Then in June 2004, the unused restaurant was demolished. Gone. I drove by on June 23, 2004, and was shocked. A pile of rubble stood where the restaurant was, including the mangled remains of the cupola. Then this summer, you may recall, the remainder of the complex, meaning the gate lodge and the motor lodge, was slated for demolition. However, the demolition was called off, and the motor lodge building was upgraded slightly for use as a dorm once again. However, the gate lodge was demolished, having been reduced to a pile of rubble. The gate lodge had been done over in the 1990s, and there were even remnants of the blue roof installed at that time (replacing the signature orange roof) visible in the debris.

For the back-story on that, JMU learned in 2004 that they couldn’t use the Howard Johnson’s buildings anymore unless they were upgraded to higher standards. Thus the buildings were vacated, because it was not considered feasible to upgrade a building that they bought with the intention of demolishing. Thus, for 2004-2005, the facility was unused as a dorm, and offices housed there were intended to be relocated (no word on how that went). However, capacity reared its ugly head again, since JMU still hasn’t figured out that it’s not a good idea to admit more freshmen than you have space. And I also don’t believe that bunking three people in a room designed for two is a solution, either, even if you do have a suite living room at your disposal. What JMU needs to do is find the funds to demolish the R5 parking lot next to Chesapeake Hall and build the third CISAT dorm that’s in the master plan for the east campus. That would either be three separate buildings of five floors each that are basically single-wing versions of my beloved Potomac Hall, holding roughly 200 students each, or the same three structures as “A”, “B”, and “C” wings connected by low-lying corridors like at Potomac Hall. Which one it’s slated to be depends on whose drawing you look at. But until then, they’re remodeling buildings whose days are already numbered. It looks fairly nice, with JMU putting new furniture, carpeting, and fixtures in, according to some new-freshman literature I found on the Web. One may notice right offhand driving by on I-81 that the sliding doors to the balconies were removed, and replaced with a more conventional glass door with windows on either side. Additionally, new railings were installed on the balconies. And this is going to be a FRESHMAN dorm.

I was surprised to see the gate lodge go. JMU wrote in the literature that I found online that the building would have TV and study lounges. One would think that the gate lodge would be where at least something like that would be located. Guess not. My guess is that certain rooms will be converted not for dorm space but rather for TV and study lounge space. Still, the idea of college freshmen walking outside in 20 degree weather on winter evenings for a trip down to “vending” strikes me as odd. But I’m sure they’ll manage. JMU students are good at managing.

Still, one last look, seen here in October 2003, in perhaps one of the last photos taken of the gate lodge, at what now no longer exists:

Now-demolished Howard Johnson's gate lodge

Web site: Wikipedia article on Howard Johnson's

Song: Don't have one... this entry started as a tangent on the entry about the road trip.

Quote: Another link about HoJo's, this one specifically about Harrisonburg. The restaurant and the gate lodge are now gone. Only the actual guest buildings remain, and these have been updated since these photos were taken. I have submitted photos to this site with pictures of the place as Rockingham Hall before it closed for a year in 2004, but so far they've not put them up, despite saying they would. *sigh*

Categories: Howard Johnson's, JMU