As we’ve travelled many back roads in and around these parts, it has always surprised me how once large family homesteads were left to fall apart through the ravages of time and nature.That decline also extended to a once elegant landmark motel located on US Rte. 13 in Accomac, VA — The Whispering Pines which had centrally-heated rooms and featured an in-ground swimming pool, dining room and soda shoppe, and tourist cabins. It was usually referred to simply as The Pines. Originally built in 1932 by the late Charles F. Russell, The Pines operated as a family business for 50 years; most of the seven Russell children and 12 grandchildren worked there as their first job. It also provided jobs for hundreds of local workers over the years. So well-regarded was The Pines that many regular travellers were known to schedule their southern route trips from NY to Florida around a stop at The Pines. It was known for gracious hospitality and good food. Local folks too often visited The Pines to dine or visit the soda shoppe. Celebrities stayed there, including the cast of the 1961 film, Misty of Chincoteague. Newsman Walter Cronkite and singer Diana Ross of The Supremes fame dined there. Years past, the Glenn Miller Band entertained at The Pines. After Russell’s death in 1963, the family continued running the business, selling it in 1972. In the early 1980s, owner Ralph Powers, was fatally injured on the grounds. Afterwards, The Pines was operated by several owners, and fell into extensive disrepair. In 2012, the property was sold at a tax sale for $27,000 in back taxes. But, on the day of the sale, the owner filed for bankruptcy; the property was encumbered in the bankruptcy process.THIS week, a fire of suspicious nature added to the deterioration and destroyed The Pines main building that formerly housed the dining room and soda shoppe. The block construction is all that was left standing. Several other buildings on the property remain standing in various stages of deterioration.As relative newcomers to the Eastern Shore, we were not familiar with The Pines grandeur as it was already well in decline in 2005. This week, blogger friend, Possum, featured a memory post based on personal experiences as a long-time resident.
Photos showing the decline and fire aftermath were taken by me. Background information and early photos of The Whispering Pines were obtained from sources that included the Eastern Shore Public Library. Also, Grenville, a former NJ firefighter, was at the fire scene as was local radio station owner, Charles F. Russell II, whose great-grandfather built The Pines.