Fairfield Inn & Suites in Groveton area finally opens

The new Fairfield Inn & Suites, right, is now open. The Alexandria Motel, the corridor’s oldest motel, is seen at left.

Richmond Highway’s newest hotel, the Fairfield Inn & Suites Alexandria, opened last week after a lengthy construction. 

Located at 6421 Richmond Highway, the Fairfield Inn & Suites has 116 rooms and will employ between 25-30 people, according to Marina Goodwin, a spokeswoman for Marriott.

Construction at the site began in 2014. The Fairfield Inn had been expected to open as early as December 2016, but the opening date was pushed back a number of times since then.

The new hotel is built a spot that used to be home to the Fairview Motel, which operated at the site from 1956 to 2013. 

Contrasting eras

With the Fairfield Inn & Suites opened, the Route 1 corridor’s newest hotel and oldest motel are now operating side-by-side.

The Alexandria Motel, built in 1937, sits just north of the Fairfield Inn & Suites. The Alexandria is one of many old-school “motor hotels” built up and down Route 1 from the 1930s to 1950s, catering to tourists and traveling businessmen during the pre-interstate highway era. The motels were so common that they became a defining characteristic of the Richmond Highway corridor, for better or worse. 

Alexandria Motel postcard

A image of a vintage postcard advertising the Alexandria Motel.

Most of the  motels from that time period — places like the Brooks Motor Lodge, Penn Daw Motel and the Ford Motor Court — are long gone. The  motels that have endured, such as the Alexandria Motel, have become low-priced refuges for transient workers, frugal visitors, and down-on-their-luck residents.

Route 1’s old motels have also been long notorious for crime and general blight. In the 1990s the county took measures to remove or cleanup the worst offenders. Some shuddered businesses, such as the Wagon Wheel Motel, Belle Haven Lodge and Keystone Motel, were demolished via the county’s blight abatement programs. Others, including the Alexandria Motel and Fairview Motel, were targeted in drug and prostitution raids. 

Alexandria Motel on Richmond Highway

The Alexandria Motel on Richmond Highway is seen in March 2017.

1996 Washington Post article describes county officials’ frustration with the motels, and efforts to hold management accountable:

Police said their anti-crime efforts have resulted in some success: The open-air drug markets are gone, and prostitutes are found much less frequently walking along the highway. But the problems continue, as was evident in late September, when police arrested 77 men in a prostitution sweep one night at the Brookside, Value Inn and Harry Smith motels.

“We have directed a lot of resources toward trying to clean the place up,” said Capt. Michael Lomonaco, commander of the Mount Vernon District station. “But the work is not over.”

The Brookside, built in 1953 and located at 6001 Richmond Highway, could be the next of the old motels to go. It has been eyed for redevelopment in the past few years, and a self-storage facility was proposed for the location in 2015. That idea that was endorsed by the Mount Vernon Council of Civic Associations, but the county did not support an amendment to the comprehensive plan for non-residential development at that site.

The owners of the Moon Inn — an old-school motel that underwent an extensive renovation recently — also had looked into purchasing the Brookside, but said they did not find the conditions of the property suitable for a new, larger hotel.