Craven’s Motel

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I am presently doing a photo series called Things They Left Behind, which I anticipate will take me far into the future. Each installment is going to cover a different abandoned place and really try to capture the sense of, well, things being left behind.

The first installment of this was at the former Craven’s Motel, located in Taunton, Massachusetts.

I’d had this shoot on my plate for several months now, but I’d had to put it off due to a combination of laziness and ongoing medical issues. It taunted me, as I passed it multiple days a week whenever I needed to get into Taunton.

It wasn’t as if I needed to get permission, either; Hawthorne Development, who had recently purchased the property, had already given me full permission to photograph the site.

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Ultimately, I think waiting like I did was worth it. The colors in some of the photos are extravagant and I would never have gotten such color or full foliage in May.

The property consisted of three tiny freestanding units. Two of the units each contained two rooms and a third unit had a suite-type setup.

I didn’t grow up in this area, so I don’t have memory of when Craven’s Motel was operational, but according to Michelle Almeida-Nadeau, the realtor who assisted me in gaining permission to photograph the site, it was owned and rented by an elderly woman.

She recalls how the woman would come out and clean the motel rooms, walking from her property to the motel next door. A young man lived in the suite-style unit, assisting her with landscaping and maintenance.

In December 2012, after the units were no longer being rented, a fire broke out in the easternmost unit, which was allegedly unoccupied. An investigation began, of which I do not know the outcome, but I personally suspect arson.  When I photographed the units, the damage from the fire was still readily apparent.

My visit to the site could not have been more timely; less than two days after, backhoes and construction equipment were already visible at the site, and it wasn’t long after that that the site was totally demolished.

Today, nothing remains of Craven’s Motel except for a dirt field, and I cannot help but feel a little sad every time I pass. Idyllic custom homes will spring up there soon, under the tender guidance of Hawthorne Development, but something was lost.

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The units were at least somewhat structurally sound; I did not feel any shifting whatsoever underfoot. Copper piping had been torn out and the bathrooms were semi-demolished, but I wonder what could’ve happened if someone put in the time and effort to restore the properties.

In this day and age, trying to rent them as small, cramped units would be financially illogical and the price to stay competitive would actually likely invite a seedy element to the area.

But the first unit, the larger unit, had been different. It was still a bit cramped and small, though for a single individual it might be the perfect size. As I had been photographing it, I had actually thought it might be perfect for me, if I were single myself and didn’t have a cat.

Remnants of a kitchen area are visible in some of the pictures, with a tree popping in through the broken window, extending a leafy hello. This unit definitely did function as an apartment at some point, with a separate bedroom and bathroom.

The other two units could be revamped as either single residences or kept with the same layout and made into offices. They’d work fantastically for young independent professionals (like me) to work and live.

But, alas, Craven’s Motel is no more, not destined to be a professional’s playground or trendy new lifestyle setup. Instead, I expect to see beautiful new homes popping up by year’s end.

Out with the old, in with the new.

Special thanks to Michelle Almeida-Nadeau, who put me in touch with the site’s owner, and John Guaranino of Hawthorne Development, who purchased the site and allowed me to photograph there.

While I myself would’ve restored the property, I know it was in the best interest of Hawthorne Development to tear it down and I don’t begrudge them that choice. Someone’s dream house will be there someday, and that’s something important.

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