Wake County

Iconic Raleigh motel on the market for $1.5 million

The Gables Motel Lodge in Raleigh’s Mordecai neighborhood is on the market for $1.5 million.
The Gables Motel Lodge in Raleigh’s Mordecai neighborhood is on the market for $1.5 million. ccampbell@newsobserver.com

The Gables Motel Lodge, a vestige of a long-gone era when U.S. 1 passed through the city’s Mordecai neighborhood carrying travelers between New York and Florida, is on the market.

Until last year, the motel’s owner, 93-year-old Charlie Griffin, was still renting out rooms. After he died in August, his great-nephew, Tommy Flynn, put the motel up for sale for $1.5 million in accordance with Griffin’s wishes.

The .51-acre lot includes 19 bedrooms, 13 bathrooms and a two-car garage distributed among three buildings. The family thought about keeping it running, Flynn said, but wasn’t able to because of other responsibilities.

“It’s a piece of history, and one of the last pieces of history from my family,” said Flynn, a real estate agent. “It was the end of an era when Charlie passed.”

Before the opening of Interstate 95, Raleigh was a popular stopping point between Florida and New York. To cash in on travelers passing through, locals opened businesses and hotels along the road – including Charlie and his brother, John “Johnny” Griffin, Flynn’s grandfather.

Johnny Griffin owned and operated the iconic Johnny’s Drive In Grill and Supper Club, along with a set of apartments, on Capital Boulevard, Flynn said. Less than a mile away, Charlie ran Gables, renting out rooms to short- and long-term guests.

Wake Forest Road was the main north-south road through Raleigh until the 1950s, when I-95 opened and the new stretch of Capital Boulevard, then known as Downtown Boulevard, was completed and became U.S. 1. But the Gables hung on. Charlie Griffin bought the motel in the mid-1960s and hung on, too, using a carbon-copy paper ledger to record rent until the day he died.

He was known as a rule-follower and performed background checks on everyone, Flynn said. But many guests and tenants became good friends with him, returning to the motel every time they passed through Raleigh.

“They don’t make them like Charlie anymore,” Flynn said.

Gables mostly blends in with the historic homes around it in Mordecai, except for the brown metal sign that has hung in front of the motel for decades, advertising air conditioning and weekly rates. Flynn hopes that the motel’s next owners will keep it.

“We would love for the buyer to continue to name it the Gables and possibly use a portion of the sign,” he said.

Madison Iszler: 919-836-4952; @madisoniszler