South of the Border and a Playground

Traveling down (or up) I-95, you cannot miss the South of the Border billboards. At one point there were 250 billboards from New Jersey to Florida! These signs tell you that you’ll find souvenir shops, food, lodging, amusements, and fireworks at this roadside rest stop. Kitschy Americana or useful rest area? You be the judge. Before you decide – do you know the history of South of the Border?

In 1949, Alan Schafer, who owned a distributing company, opened the South of the Border Beer Depot in Hamer, South Carolina. This small cinder block building sat just over the Robeson County, North Carolina border, which was then a dry county. Within a few years, Schafer added a motel and dropped “Beer Depot” from the name. Schafer decided to outfit South of the Border with a Mexican theme and over the next decade it grew to 300 acres and included a motel, gas station, campground, restaurant, post office, drugstore, and other shops. (Read more about the South of the Border in this article.)

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What about those billboards? While a number of billboards have faded, some have been updated in the past few years (to include South of the Border’s Instagram account, for example, @sobpedro). It seemed to me that a lot of the obviously questionable (some racist) billboards had been removed. Had they? According to this 1997 article, the Mexican Embassy complained, in 1993, about the “Mexican speak” billboards and other advertising materials. Eventually Alan Schafer agreed to take down the billboards, though it took a few years. For that reason, you will no longer see them on I-95. Some people have documented them. See D.W. Morrison’s website for the billboards. Good news, the billboards that remain are still quite entertaining! I laughed at quite a few.

If you’re a regular Preservation in Pink reader, you know that I cannot resist a corny joke or roadside America (and thus, I cannot resist South of the Border). And I love to share roadside America with the ones I love. On our family’s recent trek from Florida to Vermont, we stopped at South of the Border. After all, we had to introduce the baby flamingo to some crazy flamingo ways. We posed with a flamingo statue and a large concrete Pedro statue. She was unimpressed. Since she’s an infant, I assume she’ll grow to love it like her mama. (Fingers crossed.)

As we drove around, we found South of the Border surprisingly busy, yet still maintaining its eerily-sort-of-rundown vibe. The amusement park is shuttered. We couldn’t decide if one of the motels was open. The restrooms were clean. The worst part is that South of the Border sits on either side of US Highway 301, and lacks adequate pedestrian crossings or sidewalks, so it’s a nightmare attempting to cross. Hold your children and look both ways!

And now my favorite part. On our drive-about, much to my surprise, we found an old playground behind one of the motels. I’ve been to South of the Border a few times, and have never spotted this before. I had to get out and snap a photographs, of course.

Most, if not all, of the playground equipment is Game Time, Inc. equipment and remains in good condition. This equipment dates from the 1970s. Here is a tour of the playground.

These are called Saddle Mates.

 

More saddle mates on a merry-go-round

“Game Time / Litchfield Mich / Saddle Mate / Pat Pend” – Always check for the manufacturer’s stamp!

Saddle Mates on the “Buck-a-bout” from Game Time, Inc., ca. 1971

Single Saddle Mate, Donkey edition

The Stagecoach, a popular playground apparatus.

The Clown Swing, Game Time, Inc., ca. 1971. The Clown Swing would have had two swings. Other versions included the Tin Man, the Scarecrow, and the Lion.

View of the Rocket ship slides and the Clown Swing. These rocket ship slides were often made by Game Time, Inc., though other companies manufactured them as well. If you’re wondering, I did slide down the slide.

View of the playground, as seen from the parking lot behind the motel. The road behind is I-95.

Looking to the motel

Good stuff, right? Hopefully some kids still play on the playground. A bit of Google searching led me to find images of an abandoned hotel & playground near South of the Border. Comments lead me to believe it no longer exists, but it used to be a part of the Family Inn. It looks straight of a 1970s Miracle Recreation Equipment Company catalog to me. Check it out. And remember, if you come across an old (historic?) playground, snap a few photos and send them my way. I love old playgrounds!

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#ihavethisthingwithfloors, Lightner Museum Edition

The mosaic tile floor in the lobby of the Lightner Museum in St. Augustine, FL, is one of the prettiest floors I’ve ever seen. In fact, it’s one of the prettiest rooms. It would be a perfect place for a preservation party! Take a look. 


Coming up: more on the Lightner Museum & Alcazar Hotel. 

Action Needed: Save the Historic Tax Credit

Do you know how your state is affected by the Historic Tax Credit (HTC)? Do you know that a lot of downtown and village revitalization would not happen without the aid of the HTC? The HTC makes up the difference in project cost, which allows for the buildings to be rehabilitated.

Need an example? A current project in Enosburg Falls, Vermont is rehabilitating the historic Quincy Hotel. This building, constructed in 1874, began as a railroad hotel and served travelers well into the 21st century, becoming one of the longest continually operating hotels in Vermont. 

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Quincy House, ca. 1910, prior to the fire on the 3rd floor, which resulted in the altered windows and roof (see next photo). Image source: Enosburg Historical Society. 


Enosburg Falls is a typical example of a northern Vermont village; it was a bustling village and regional hub for industry, but with the demise of the railroad, it entered a protracted period of economic decline. This was manifested in a village center with many underutilized buildings and consequently fewer options for local employment, which have adversely affected the cohesiveness and vibrancy of the community. People left, businesses left, and buildings fell into disrepair. On top of that, the village suffered fires in some of its main building blocks.

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One of the rooms inside the Quincy Hotel prior to rehabilitation. 

The rehabilitation of Quincy Hotel will provide the community with public spaces to host events ranging from business meetings to workshops and retreats, all with in -house accommodations and meals, complementing what is already in the Village. The hotel is located downtown and adjacent to the Enosburg Opera House. The railroad has been converted to the Missisquoi Valley Rail Trail; cyclists and tourists will find comfortable lodging at the Quincy Hotel. The rehabilitation of the Quincy Hotel would not be economically feasible without the state and federal Historic Tax Credits. There is a need for this project; Enosburg Falls is undergoing revitalization by dedicated residents and business people with investment in restaurants, retail, housing, parks, and now lodging.  Long-time readers will recall the Flying Disc coffee shop, a locally owned and successful coffee shop, which is just a short walk from the Quincy Hotel. 

This project, like all tax credit projects, will act as an economic multiplier; a catalyst for continued economic development. The local tax base will expand and jobs will be created as a direct result of this project. Even one small project can serve as a catalyst, leading to larger projects. Bringing housing downtown encourages commercial development (restaurants, retail, office spaces) and investment in a town or city block. This makes our existing communities more livable for all, and prevents poor development (i.e. sprawl) elsewhere. People want to live and work in vibrant communities.

So far tax credit projects seem like win-win situations, right? Yes. However, over the years our preservation efforts – from ordinances to regulations to tax credits – have been threatened at the local, state, and national levels. The only way to prevent their loss is to speak up! Right now is one of those times. Read on for an overview of the issues and how to help save the Historic Tax Credit (HTC), formerly called the Rehabilitation Investment Tax Credit (RITC).

The issue: The current tax reform bill introduced in the House of Representatives would eliminate the HTC. The HTC is a proven economic driver, as well the federal government’s most significant investment in historic preservation. If we take away the HTC, businesses and development projects are far less likely to pursue preservation projects because there will be no financial incentive. Why invest additional money if there will not be a guaranteed return-on-investment for developers?

Does this matter? Yes, it matters. If you take away the HTC, you take away valuable preservation dollars and in turn, irreplaceable historic fabric of your communities. How much of an impact will it have in your city or state? Find your state here and download an easy to use fact sheet. You can see which projects are housing, commercial, etc. For example, in Vermont (whose population is only approx. 600,000), from 2002-2016, there have been 234 HTC projects that resulted in over $200 million in total development.

Overall, the HTC generates more dollars than it costs to implement. It gives money back to the government while benefitting local and state communities. Most everyone is catching on; in 2016, the HTC was used more than ever, according to the National Park Service and Rutgers UniversityFrom the National Trust for Historic Preservation: over the life of the program, the historic rehabilitation tax credit (HTC) has:

  • created more than 2.4 million good-paying local jobs
  • leveraged $131.8 billion in private investment in our communities;
  • used $25.2 billion in tax credits to generate more than $29.8 billion in federal tax revenue;
  • and preserved more than 42,293 buildings that form the historic fabric of our nation.

This video from the National Trust shares highlights of the HTC.

Think this just a concern for Democrats? Not true. President Ronald Reagan put the HTC into place and fully believed in it. Watch and listen here.

What can you do to help? Contact your representatives! Here is an easy way to send an email. And, even more effective, call them!

On Leave

It’s been a quiet summer for Preservation in Pink, with good reason. My husband and I have been preparing for and are now welcoming the newest addition to our family: a baby girl! As you can imagine, she is well stocked in flamingo outfits and toys. We’re settling in and soaking up her cuteness. 

PiP will be in slow motion, adjusting to a new normal. No promises on a a schedule yet, since baby girl runs the show right now. There are new preservation adventures to be had with baby in tow (she has no choice in the matter!) And as we say in our circle of flamingos: the flamboyance is expanding yet again! 

Thank you for your support, preservation friends!