The history of Jack Tar Motel
A colleague asked me a few weeks ago what the origin of the Jack Tar name was (referring to the new Unscripted Hotel downtown). I was curious so did some searching, and then, of course, we reached out to the team giving new life to this historic property.
The Jack Tar Motel was designed and constructed in 1962 to cater to the ever-growing automobile industry on the East Coast. The Jack Tar was built by the Homeland Investment Co., whose motto was “Improving Downtown Durham.” It featured a unique sky bridge connected to what was the Washington Duke at the time, providing parking and pool amenities to both properties. The 100-room motel was considered the peak of modernity at the time, with a promise to travelers: “Prepare to be pampered.”
Throughout the 1960s, the Jack Tar expanded to consume the entire 200 block of Corcoran Street, taking over several older buildings as it was built in stages. The Jack Tar closed in 1977 and passed through a number of property owners, and in 2011 was considered endangered by Preservation Durham.
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A few years later, as part of downtown Durham’s renaissance, the Austin Lawrence Partners (ALP) company bought Jack Tar and restored it back to life as the Unscripted Durham, a boutique hotel boasting 74 guest rooms and suites. Kudos to the ALP for maintaining most of the Jack Tar’s original architecture and design elements accented by bright colors, geometric patterns, and custom murals. The hotel is complemented by five locally inspired food and beverage venues, including an expansive rooftop pool deck and lounge on the third floor.
The Unscripted brings Durham to 73 hotels and lodging properties with nearly 8,300 guest rooms. And the really great news is demand for hotel rooms is keeping up with (and ahead of) the pace of opening new hotel rooms. So now you know the rest of the story, what memories do you have of visiting this when it was called the Jack Tar? Let me know.
President and CEO
Durham Convention and Visitors Bureau
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