Riverside Motel

Once a popular stop for travelers, the Riverside Motel located along US-17 near the Georgia-Florida state line opened in 1954. The one-story L-shaped motel had a dozen rooms with an office in the center courtyard. The motel’s sign advertised air-conditioned rooms. Some of the doors still had rates visible on the back; $9 daily for one person, $12 daily for two in one bed, $14 for two in two beds, or another $2 for an extra person. The motel owners, Knud Howard Olfort and his wife Nellie Vanzant Olfort, also operated a souvenir shop and liquor store next door called St. Mary’s Liquors.

Before 2011, many counties in Georgia were still dry, meaning it was illegal for residents to purchase alcohol on Sundays. Locals would often cross the state line to buy alcohol from St. Mary’s Liquors. Work began on Interstate 95 in 1959, and by 1960 the first portion through Jacksonville was complete. By the 1970s, a majority of the interstate system was completed, North to South from South Carolina to Miami. Travelers no longer were forced to use the old highways to travel to Florida and many opted for the new, faster route. Some speculate the completion of I-95 was the demise of the motel, others say the business did not close due to a lack of traffic.


The motel property includes a large amount of acreage behind the business. In 1993, Knud’s wife Nellie Olfort went missing. When authorities attempted to search for her, Knud refused to allow anyone onto the property. Without his help, the case soon went cold. Offers to purchase the property arose, but Knud refused to sell. When a movie producer discovered the dilapidated motel and offered to make repairs in exchange for using the property to film, Knud still declined.


Knud Olfort passed away in 1997. Two years later, on September 11, 1999, the U.S. Navy was performing diving exercises in the St. Mary’s River and discovered Nellie’s car with her skeletal remains still inside. The discovery was less than a half-mile from the motel. According to local authorities, Knud may have had something to do with Nellie’s disappearance. Nothing is certain. His unwillingness to cooperate with the search for his wife led many to speculate that Knud had something to do with her disappearance.

Riverside Motel
Riverside Motel
Riverside Motel
Riverside Motel
Riverside Motel
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Riverside Motel
Riverside Motel
Riverside Motel
Riverside Motel
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Riverside Motel
Riverside Motel
Riverside Motel
Riverside Motel

It appears the motel has sat vacant ever since. Curtains hang in most of the windows. Many of the floors are completely rotten and falling through. Some of the rooms have at least a mattress if not more left behind. There are even a few articles of clothing left behind on hangars. In early 2020, the property sold to a new owner who is in the process of clearing the land and demolishing the old motel and stores. Once the land is clear, he plans to resell the property.

For more photos from the old Riverside Motel as well as a dozen other abandoned places nearby, check out Abandoned North Florida. Thank you for reading. I appreciate your support. Please share the blog with your friends. You can find me on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and TikTok.

12 comments

  1. Yes, highway changes can kill businesses and towns like this, sad but can’t stop progress, all well run businesses will had had good notice to close shop well in advance of the new highways being built, perhaps even compensated for the loss to business from redirected roading, who knows.

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    1. Compensated? Not hardly. The State of Florida simply takes what it wants, including personal property. It’s called Imminent Domain. You have to take them to court if you want true value, not the insulting pittance they offer. When I was a kid, the State seized my grandparent’s farm because they wanted to run a service road through the front pasture for an interstate. You can imagine how we all felt about “progress.”
      I-95 killed thousands of businesses. Those Mom and Pop businesses who had invested their savings and sweat in motels and tourist kitsch and gas stations went bankrupt. The few tourists who enjoyed the real Florida weren’t enough to keep them going. It was the end of something wonderful and personal, and Florida wasn’t the only state to eventually qualify for this blog because of soul-less interstates.

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  2. This motel looks very scary … Just like in a typical horror movie .. you look at the photo and wait for the appearance of some kind of ghost or maniac.

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  3. I’d been coming to this area for years and always stopped to take photos of the old Riverside Motel. Now having made Yulee FL my new home since 2017, the Riverside had been just a few miles away. Still I was always compelled to take more photos. Very sad to pass the site now and find it gone.

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