Photo ca. 1960s: Carl E. Fitchett, Jr. collection courtesy of Penne Sandbeck
The Daily Record [Dunn], 3-10-61:
Courtesy of Penne Sandbeck
Above: The Motor Lodge was still under construction when the Restaurant opened. Note that at press time the Gate Lodge had not yet received its gleaming orange porcelain enamel roof tiles!

Dunn, North Carolina

 -- 513 Spring Branch Rd (I-95, Pope Rd exit 72)

The entrepreneur and visionary Thomas Pearsall referred to the route of Interstate 95 through North Carolina as "a real pipeline of gold." He correctly foresaw that the highway would become the primary conduit of north-south traffic through his Tar Heel State, and recognized the potential it represented for businessman in the hospitality industry. Pearsall's vision had earlier led him to become an oil distributor and an early Howard Johnson's Motor Lodge operator. In fact, his Rocky Mount HoJo's Motor Lodge was among the first in the chain to have been opened. Thus in the early 1960s as I-95 was being built, fellow oil distributors, the Fitchetts, endeavored to enter the hospitality industry in order to capture some of the highway gold that Pearsall spoke of--and the Fitchett family naturally turned to him for guidance.

The wedge of property where Dunn's HoJo's was built was initially purchased by the Fitchetts in 1956 with the intention of having it serve as a truck stop. However that plan never came to fruition, and Carl E. Fitchett, Jr. whose wife's uncle had interest in both the Greensboro and Danville Howard Johnson's Restaurants teamed up with Mr. Pearsall to develop the site into a showpiece Howard Johnson's complex! Initially an all ground level 36 room Motor Lodge, its opening was the talk of the town. No fewer than 500 invited guests and dignitaries inspected the ultra-modern facility in the summer of 1961 just as it was readied for business.

Photo March 1961: Carl E. Fitchett, Jr. collection courtesy of Penne Sandbeck

Above: Opening day for Dunn in 1961! On hand were from left to right: Thomas Pearsall, Howard B. Johnson, Earl Maxwell Starnes, Carl E. Fitchett, and Mr. O'Keeffe.

Below: While the Restaurant opened on March 7, 1961 with considerable fanfare, the entire complex was not fully functional until the summer. A number of contractor congratulatory advertisements appeared in the local newspaper when the Howard Johnson's was completed.

The Daily Record [Dunn], 7-11-61, p.4: courtesy of Penne Sandbeck
Photo ca. 1961: Carl E. Fitchett, Jr. collection courtesy of Penne Sandbeck

Postcard ca. 1960s: Kummerlowe Archive
Postcard ca. 1970s: Kummerlowe Archive

Above: A late 1960s or early '70s addition to the Dunn restaurant provided a larger "Lamplighter Room" space for meetings and overflow dining.

Below: Franchise Associates Incorporated (FAI) recognizing the significance of its largest franchise operator, the Pearsall Group, held a strategy meeting at the Dunn Restaurant to discuss and plan for the chain's future (or we might say demise). It was determined that a back-to-basics theme would be adopted with focus on traditional HoJo's fare like clams, franks, and ice cream. A further result of the gathering was that franchisees would be required to spend in excess of $560,000 to update their facilities or have their franchise pulled--perhaps FAI was just a tad unrealistic to say the least!

Reprinted in FAI's UPDATE No. 3 from The Daily Record [Dunn] 11-25-86, p. 1: Courtesy of Larry Passaro
Above: At Dunn in 1986 attending the FAI meeting were from left to right: Bill Bennett (Dunn's manager), Patricia Baily (Gold Rock's manager), Lorraine Baily (Roanoke Rapids manager), Al Hardy (consultant), Gerry O'Neill (FAI), Barbara Leveroni (FAI), Jack Faucher (FAI), and Nancy Copeland (Pearsall Operating Co.).
Photos 2002-2003: Courtesy of Phil Edwards

The Restaurant was converted during the early 1990s into the Brass Lantern Steakhouse. Little of its exterior save for the Nims inspired ranch style roof-line reminds the passing motorist that it was once a Howard Johnson's Restaurant.

Lower: An abbreviated section of modernist architect Edward Durell Stone inspired decorative concrete block-wall remained at the site.

Photo 2003: Courtesy of Bob Venditti