Riverside Motel &
St. Mary's Liquor Store
The abandoned motel, souvenir shop, and liquor store that can leave you with a sinking feeling if you don't watch your step
The Riverside Motel | Photo © 2018 Sugarbomb
Sitting just yards from the Florida/Georgia border, across the street from a forest and the logging truck from the beginning of Final Destination 2 is the remains of the Riverside Motel and St. Mary's Liquor Store. The motel was made up of only about a dozen rooms in two buildings that are situated in an L-shape and now nearly hidden behind the overgrown grass. Despite its relatively close proximity to Jacksonville, it's clear that this place is pretty far away from anyone's regular route since it seems to have remained untouched, save for a lone piece of weave hanging from the metal columns in front swaying gently in the breeze.
Upon entering the first room, I was greeted by a totem of TV's from many decades ago. Sort of like the ones my Grandma used to watch her soaps on every day when I was a toddler, though it was considered outdated even then. Other than being technological fossils, they remain miraculously intact.
The Riverside TV's | Photo © 2018 Sugarbomb
The rooms remind me of an apocalypse type scenario - like one day everyone just picked up and left. The beds are still on their frames, pillows still in tattered cases, and threadbare curtains still hang on rods over the windows. On the twin mattress of one room, clothing still on its hangers is laid out across the bed, like someone had been trying to decide on their outfit.
Not much info can be found about this place, as is the case with most locations you have to find by traversing roads via street view in Google Earth. Judging by the aesthetic of the clothing, the curtains, and the TV's, my best guess would be that it hosted its last guests in the 80's. Not even the few local residents around the area can pinpoint when this little motel met its demise.
A Room at the Riverside | Photo © 2018 Sugarbomb
There's sparse graffiti here and there in the rooms, but the majority of the vandalism of these structures has been done by nature itself. In the walkway of the second building that sits perpendicular to the road, I was trying to get a good shot of the overgrowth along the hallway and asked Flowerbomb to step into a room real quick.
"That...is not possible," she responded. When I looked through the doorway of the room she was standing in front of I could see why; the majority of the floor was gone. This building obviously sits on a series of sinkholes and most of the linoleum-tiled floors have given way to the earth below. The walls are still standing, even though the floor beneath many parts of them is gone, taking mattresses and anything else nearby with them. The sinking feeling that the discovery of the sinkholes gave us led to the nickname we bestowed upon the motel; The Sinkhole Hell Motel.
Next to the Sinkhole Suites, was another building, whose fading paint announced 'souvenirs' and 'films' from behind the overgrowth. While I'm pretty sure the only souvenirs we're going to pick up from this place are gonna be ticks and death-by-sinkhole, I pushed through the foliage and ducked through the broken front door. The inside of the shop looked like a bar-type setup, making me wonder what type of films they were pedaling in the first place. There wasn't much more than a crumbling counter and an old Emerson record/tape player sitting on the end of it, covered in cobwebs but otherwise untouched. The back room
Holy Sinkhole, Batman! | Photo © 2018 Sugarbomb
behind the bar with ripped, moss-stained curtains that looked straight out of a Wrong Turn movie did not put my suspicions to rest in the slightest. We're a long damn way from anything out here, but if we were about to meet any insane mutants, I was comfortable knowing that Kaine would be the one to meet them first, since he'd wandered off behind the motel into the woods.
St. Mary's Liquors | Photo © 2018 Sugarbomb
Next to the souvenir shop is the St. Mary's Liquor Store, named for the nearby river that marks the state line. The remains of the wooden counters lay crumbling across the floor, most likely victims to time and humidity rather than random vandals. Despite the promise of 'WHISKEY' written across the front in large letters, there is no whiskey to be had in this place, and it looks like that's been the case for quite a few decades.
You know what they say; it's all about location, location, location! And in its heyday, St. Mary's Liquor Store was in a prime location. Georgia is a dry state on Sundays, prohibiting the sale of alcohol except in the rare special circumstance where the local government held local referendums to decide on the issue and overruled it. This instance was rare though, so if you wanted to drink in Georgia on the lord's day you'd have to get creative - or just get in your car and drive over the state line to buy your booze. This put St. Mary's Liquor Store and the neighboring souvenir shop in a great, convenient spot for all those wayward Georgia folks looking for their fix.
Whiskey Makes You Frisky | Photo © 2018 Sugarbomb
Just as no one quite knows exactly when the motel/shop/liquor store was abandoned and left to rot, the reasons as to why are equally mysterious. It was more than likely a combination of unfortunate circumstances, similar to what happened to the old roadside shops on US-27; highways were built and became the quicker, more convenient method of travel, leaving these once ideal business locations in the dust.
Or perhaps it could have been the Flesh Rippers of Jacksonville. Rumored to "make you see red" and torture the mind of anyone who crosses their path, the spirits of the Flesh Rippers roam the country looking for places of bloodshed and when they find it they settle in and attack anyone who encounters them there. The story goes on to say that these Flesh Rippers were originally residents in an asylum. One night, all of them went mad - or more mad, since they were in an asylum to begin with - and turned on the other patients, medical staff, and eventually each other, leaving the walls and floors covered in blood.
Get Ripped at the Riverside Motel | Photo © 2018 Sugarbomb
"I feel like a survivor," says Ed, an explorer that says to have had an encounter with the Flesh Rippers when exploring the Riverside Motel on a dare with his friend, Stephen. According to Ed, as soon he and his friend stepped into one of the rooms, Stephen suddenly fell to his knees and when he turned around his eyes were red. Stephen grabbed Ed's wrist and Ed says he saw red everywhere - on the walls, floor, the beds, even dripping from the windows. Every surface dripped with red, the metallic tang of blood filled the air, and he heard a storm rumbling right above them even though he could see the sun outside through the windows.
Stephen then pulled him to the ground, red eyes looking right through him and that is when he says he knew that something had taken over and it wasn't his friend anymore. He reached blindly for an object and hit his friend with it, causing him to slump to the ground and ending the ordeal. He dragged his friend outside and roused him, only to find that he had no memory of what had transpired.
Or it might have something to do with the giant sinkhole gobbling up the building a few feet away.