Published August 16, 2020
Horne's was a restaurant chain mainly located in Southern states with a few up north. It's headquarters were in Bayard, Florida, a small town on U.S.-1 between Jacksonville and St. Augustine.
It was started in 1948 by Bob Horne, who at one time had worked for Stuckey's in Eastman, Georgia. This may be why Horne's and Stuckey's resembled each other so much.
He started his little restaurant and gift shop on the property of his family's Beautyrest Cabins motel in Bayard.
The chain grew steadily and at one time Horne's was in 60 different locations. Some of them had sit down restaurants and lunch counters. Others also had motels on their property.
A distinguishing feature of Horne's was the yellow roof. At one time over 1,250 billboards were advertising the restaurants and motels. The yellow roof and billboards were familiar sights along the Florida highways.
Many Horne's also had gas stations, gift shops, ice cream stands, and other enticements for the motoring public. Since they catered to the motoring public, most of them were open 7 days a week, 24 hours a day.
In 1968 I started working on the construction of Walt Disney World. It was not a theme park yet, but just a big construction site out in the boondocks about 18 miles southwest of Orlando.
The nearest places for lodging back then were in Kissimmee and Orlando. I chose to stay at Horne's Motor Lodge on South Orange Blossom Trail at I-4.
There were about 60 of us living there full time back then. We ate at the restaurant most mornings for breakfast and at the end of the day for dinner.
This Horne's was reportedly the largest of them all. The lodge had 157 rooms, a pool, dining room, grill room, and our favorite of all: the Robin Hood Cocktail Lounge.
There were many distractions on South Orange Blossom Trail in the late 1960s and early 1970s.
Foremost among them was The Inferno, a raunchy joint where a lot of construction workers spent their hard earned money drinking and enjoying the dancing.
The Orlando Hornes Motor Lodge and restaurant have been converted into the Days Inn by Wyndham Orlando Downtown.
The memories come flooding back every time I drive by.
The days are long gone when you would see a Horne's at stategic highway locations all over Florida along with the associated billboards and tall signs.
Horne's sold its operations to Greyhound in 1964 and the plan was to expand the chain with the bus company's money. Greyhound in turn sold to another company.
The chain began to run into financial troubles in the late 1970s and was finally taken over by the Atlantic National Bank in 1981.
The Horne's in Florida are all gone now, as far as I know. Wikipedia says the last Florida Horne's was in Ocala and it no longer stands. It was demolished in 2014.
As you drive through Florida today you may see an abandoned or former Horne's building here and there. Some have been repurposed into retail operations of some kind. Others are just abandoned and deteriorated.
You can no longer count on the yellow roof to identify an old Horne's. A lot of them have been painted over in different colors.
Hopefully you will feel nostalgic and have fond memories of Horne's when you see these old buildings.