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 heck 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

Originally called Manias Manor, the hotel was built by the Manias family in 1930. As an upscale hotel, the building's position just up the hill from downtown positioned the manor as a convenient, quiet location for folks who wanted easy access to the heart of the city. The buildings were made of beautiful red brick with ornamental detail along the roof line, entry area, and chimneys. A manicured lawn and flower beds greeted visitors who undoubtedly took notice of the manor's curb appeal from then-State Route 88. Success led to the construction of a second building in 1939, and a courtyard connected the two. Manias family members immigrated from Greece earlier in the 1900's and local celebrities such as George Manias, bear the name of the original owners. In fact, George's sister Angela worked at the family Motor Lodge for 12 years before moving to the Pere Marquette Hotel downtown.

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 88 (later IL-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?


-D

Comments

  1. is it true that there was a murder or two committed in the lodge? That was always the rumor.

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  2. I love this building. It was Caroline Motor Lodge when I was a little girl. I loved driving by and seeing the two beautiful parallel curving staircases in the entrance. I thought it was so special.

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  3. Thanks. I have often wondered of the story behind this building. Appreciate your taking the time to share!

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  4. My sister lived in this place in a Studio in the upper east corner of the building during the late 90s. It had a tiny kitchen(ette), a Murphy bed and a hallway that gave me the creeps. It also had beautiful hardwood floors, gorgeous accents and original fixtures. I loved this building, and am glad to see that it hasn't been torn down. I do hope someone who knows the significance of this era of building takes the reins and fixes it up.

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  5. Thanks for the history lesson. George Manias "The Peoria Shoe Shine King" is the son of the original owners of this building, and his sister Angela, runs "Angie's Candy and Nuts" store on the ground floor of the Twin Towers building downtown. Back in the '60's, this area looked much differently than it does today. Across the street from this building was Peoria Motors, one of the biggest Ford dealerships in the area. My first car came from there in 1968 - a new Torino Gt Fastback. Sure wish I had that car back.

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