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Wilmington landmark checks out

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Checkout time Sunday morning made it official. Whitey’s El Berta Motor Inn is closing it’s doors. It has been a fixture on Market Street for the past 55 years. When it was built back in 1953 it had only 18 rooms. Ownership of the property changed hands about 30 years ago when Whitey took it over and added more rooms.

Whitey owns the restaurant next door; that is where you can always find him. He said there are plenty of reasons behind closing down El Berta, from the economy to maintenance costs. “Now is the time to make a change, we feel like if we spend a lot of money on the motel, we’ll still have an old motel,” said Horace “Whitey” Prevatte.

El Berta employs between 10 and 12 workers like Holly Dawes and Olga Costillo who said they couldn’t believe the news. “I can’t really imagine what it is going to be like without this being here,” said Dawes.

Dawes added that it is clear people consider El Berta a true Wilmington landmark after hearing some odd requests from the public. “People want part of the history. We’ve got people who want bricks. It’s going to be really interesting to see what happens as we start to disassemble,” she said.

The El Berta Motor Inn is quite unique, the entire motel is just one story. Another thing you won’t find these days, every room still opens with a key.

The 83-room, one story building sits on some prime real estate along Market Street. Though the motel will eventually be torn down, Whitey will continue to own the property where shops or a new hotel will one day replace El Berta. “It’s kind of sweet and kind of sour. I hate to see it go but we know it has to be done and we are looking for the future.”

Whitey and his sons own two other hotels in the area. Some employees from the El Berta will be absorbed into those businesses.

The next step for the El Berta is clearing out all the rooms. The bedding and furniture will be donated to area charities.

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videoWilmington waved goodbye to a local landmark Sunday. We’re not talking about a major corporation or a bank; it was Whitey’s El Berta Motor Inn on Market Street. After more than 50 years in business, the vacancy sign is off for good.

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