The Manias Motor Lodge
Every morning on the way to work I pass by a pair of buildings that have seen better days...an old motel ready to give up the ghost any day now. Nestled between Interstate 74 and a vacant gas station, this property has high visibility along a busy state highway yet nobody seems to notice it. It blends into the 'blah' in the area. Closed repair shops, brown fields, and empty parking lots. Rather than spend my commute pining away, I decided that its best to take a few photos and type something about the place so that others can take notice. Heck, maybe someone of means will buy the joint and turn it into something good. (Or paint it white and convert it into a giant White Castle, since that's what Peoria, Illinois truly needs.)
In many U.S. cities, older buildings blend into their surroundings. Its not that they're devoid of architectural style or historical significance. They often are just stuck in an area that's evolved around them and are just hangin' in there...irrelevant today. Remember that 1987 film Batteries Not Included where Riley's Cafe was going to be torn down and robots helped to save it from demolition? By the end of the movie the rest of the block was leveled the lone four-story building was left standing.
I forgot where the hell I was going with this, but that's a good movie. You should totally watch it.
What was I saying?
Oh, yeah...old buildings should be noticed more or something like that.
Case in point, the Manias Motor Lodge building just off Illinois Route 40.
|This 1940's postcard features the Manias Manor in all its splendor. Credit: DigitalCommonwealth.org|
|The entrance to building 2, constructed in 1939. Note the window units and single pane windows throughout.|
As Peoria weathered The Great Depression and more and more folks moved further away from downtown into their own houses, the manor eventually changed its focus. It moved from an upscale hotel to a motor lodge for the tired traveler. Vehicle traffic along Illinois Route 40 picked up so did competition. By 1956 the building sported a renovated lobby area and updated facade visible from the road and block letters that spelled out 'Motor Lodge' on each side. Its renovations helped the motor lodge survive the fabulous 50's and 60's in the face of competitors across the road and north of the city.
|Overgrown yew bushes cover most of the building from the road, and hide the paneled facade.|
|The Towne House Motel, directly across from the Motor Lodge at 1519 N. Knoxville Ave. was a direct competitor after its construction in the 1950's.|
The Manias family later sold their Motor Lodge and the Peoria landscape continued to change. Downtown grew quiet after the construction of Northwoods Mall in the center of town. White flight occurred, state highway travel was eclipsed by interstate travel and the bustle turned bust. In 1971, the name changed to the Caroline Motor Lodge after local attorney Elmo Koos purchased the complex and named it after his wife, Caroline. It functioned under that name for many years and was revamped as the Manor Motor Lodge sometime prior to being sold to the current owners Merle and Carol Huff in 1990.
|The Motor Lodge circa 1998 Photo: Peoria County GIS|
Guests turned to residents and the building was eventually vacated and sits empty these days. Truth be told, the Motor Lodge is still in remarkably good condition, but likely needs a lot of TLC. It also sits adjacent to OSF St. Francis Medical Center which has seen a great deal of expansion in the last decade. Will it last another 10, 50, or 80 years? Time will tell. The current owners, the Huffs, own and manage numerous historic properties under the names Consolidated Properties, Midtax, Realtax Developers, and Ideal Rentals just to name a few. The couple is responsible for the stunning redevelopment of the Ensenberger Condominiums in downtown Bloomington, Illinois several years ago. Other plans to rehab older buildings didn't work out so well. Does the Manias Motor Lodge await a similar fate? We hope certainly hope not. What is clear is the neighborhood could not support such a venture today, and the need for lodging downtown has already been addressed in recent years thanks to a $40 million investment in the Pere Marquette and a new Courtyard by Marriott. What use could this building serve besides apartment suites?
In the meantime we'll pass by these remarkable 1930's buildings every day on the way to work and check in on them from the road. If nothing else, they provide photographers with inspiration and bloggers with fodder to write about. I'm still pushing for a White Castle though. Anyone with me?