The Mother Earth Motor Lodge and Downtown Kinston's Revival

Kinston is a crossroads town.  It is an intersection of so many pieces of North Carolina's heritage, past and present.  Tobacco and textiles, the coast to the east and the piedmont to the west, black and white, agriculture and industry, music and art. 

Like all of its sister Eastern NC communities, Kinston would be heavily impacted by the changes to the textile and tobacco industries.  As population growth grew stagnant and declined, the once-bustling downtowns suffered with it.  

During the last half of the 20th Century, Kinston was no exception.  Yet in the early 2000s, that would begin to change.  

Mother Earth Brewing Company is the heartbeat of Downtown Kinston's revival.

Stephen Hill and Trent Mooring, two Kinston natives, would create the Mother Earth Brewing Company in 2008.  In 2010, they opened the Brewery at the site of a former grocery store and pharmacy on the corner of North Herritage and West North Streets.   

The Chef & The Farmer attracts visitors to Kinston from throughout the country.

A key point in Kinston's comeback occurred in 2013 when another Kinston native, Vivian Howard, was featured on PBS's series, A Chef's Life.  Howard opened her restaurant, Chef & The Farmer, in Kinston in 2006.  

Another key piece of the revival of Downtown Kinston is the Mother Earth Motor Lodge on North Herritage Street.  This throwback to the motor lodges of the 60s and 70s is one of the more unique places to stay in North Carolina.

Originally known as the Kinston Mid-Town Motor Lodge, the building opened in 1963.  Though the Motor Lodge was located away from the main highways in Kinston, it did attract a fair amount of business from weekend shoppers, business travelers, and music fans.  Kinston was a key place in Eastern North Carolina's music scene.  The Mid-Town would close in the 1980s.  The Kinston Motor Lodge, a seedy rent-by-the-hour motel, would take its place operating well into the 2000s.

Hill & Mooring would purchase the Motor Lodge in the mid-2010s.  They would renovate the old inn into an early-1970s South Florida-styled Motor Lodge.  The renamed Mother Earth Motor Lodge, complete with a neon homage to the old Holiday Inn great sign, opened in 2017.

The retro-themed Motor Lodge comes complete with everything you would have found at a coastal motor lodge in the 70s.  An outdoor pool, shuffleboard, nine-hole miniature golf course, bike rentals, and concrete ping-pong tables.  And let's not forget the palm trees!

Inside the room are the bright colors of the era but with modern amenities.  The exterior hallways of the old motor lodge are still there, but they are now reversed with gated key card access is the only way to access them.

With all the retro features, it is easy to overlook the great hospitality at Mother Earth.  The postcard with a note from housekeeping on the nightstand is a nice added touch. 

Many local businesses line North Herritage Street in Kinston.

The Motor Lodge is only a walk of a few blocks from Mother Earth Brewery, Chef & The Farmer, and other restaurants and activities.  Prefer pizza - grab a slice at the Sugar Hill Pizzeria and then head to Ironclad Axe Throwing for a fun night.  Or try the mix of Asian and American cuisines at The Laughing Owl and walk over to Art 105 to enjoy the artist studios and galleries.

The 1924 Farmers & Merchant's Bank Building is now home to The O'Neil - a luxury boutique hotel.

Walking through this area of Kinston, you instantly see and feel the fruits of the efforts of Hill, Mooring, Howard, and others.  It is full of activity, vibrant, and exciting.

All photos were taken by post author - April 2019 & August 2021.

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