Preserving History: The Role of The Starlight Motor Inn in North Charleston’s Heritage

the Starlight Motor Inn

When you live in a city like Charleston, SC, there are some buildings that you see every day and never pay much attention to. Then there are those that you drive by day in and day out that sort of become a landmark in your travels.

For many, the Starlight Motor Inn in North Charleston has been a beacon. It is a building that has gone through transitions over the last 60 years and has now been declared a Historical Landmark. There is no denying that it is a part of this city’s history.

Let’s take a look at how it started — and where it is today.

From Car Dealership to Motel

For those who have spent a lifetime in North Charleston, the site where the Starlight Motor Inn sits today used to be the home of Woody Roger’s Studebaker dealership. However, in the 1950s he discovered that having a motel could be a more profitable business since family road trips increased the need for lodging.

He and his family invested in a prefabricated modular motel known as the “instant motel.” The steel structure for the building was built on the site while each of its rooms was actually built on an assembly line in Georgia. Every bit of the room was put together on the line – including the furniture – before it was sent to the site and put in place within the steel structure, much like placing a drawer in a cabinet.

In today’s terms, it’d be a plug-and-play motel — and it was the first of its kind in the Charleston area.

The Host of America motel opened its doors in 1961.

The pool was added when the motel was originally constructed, but a few years later, in 1966, the Rogers family added The Burgundy Lounge and the Pilgrim Inn restaurant.

This land went from a struggling used car lot to a thriving motel.

From Then Until Now

Success wasn’t always easy in the motel business. As time passed, changes took place within the motel and the world around it.

The Rogers eventually sold in the 1980s and, unfortunately, the new owners had to face the destruction that came from Hurricane Hugo in 1989. During this time, the motel’s name changed to the Star of America Motel.

With newer, larger hotel chains taking over the tourism industry, the motel continued on a downward spiral until the beginning of the 21st century when it was officially closed to the public.

A Historical Landmark

The history around the Starlight Motor Inn is rich. The memories of sailors and road-tripping families run deep when it comes to time spent here. And now those memories can be preserved forever.

As of 2020, the motel has officially been listed on the National Register of Historic Places. So, from Woody Rogers and his transformed car dealership to today’s owners who have completely restored the site, its roots have been planted.

Today, the property has been revived and transformed into the Starlight Motor Inn. With a modern, vintage-inspired decor, it is quickly making its name known within the North Charleston community. People travel from all over just to experience a little bit of nostalgia and history.

The Starlight Motor Inn is a restored mid-century motel located in Charleston, SC perfect for restful days and playful nights. Stay. Swim. Dine. Drink. 


Sarah Ross

Sarah Ross