With Mid-century Modern all the rage since "Mad Men" and now that we all love "Schitt’s Creek," too, is the motel fashionable again?
Revamped vintage places like these would seem to say there’s plenty of life left in the motor hotel, the popularity of which boomed with the explosion of car culture in the 1950s and ‘60s in America.
But I’ll leave those lodging trends for savvier minds to ponder. In the meantime, here are some fun postcard porn of Milwaukee-area motels – Mid-century Modern and otherwise – to help you conjure days of family road trips gone by.
Thanks to Adam Levin and the Old Milwaukee Facebook group for some of these images.
5911 N. 115th St.
Now gone and replaced by an apartment complex, 100 Motel – open year round! – had a distinctive red sign and a sprawlin complex of low-slung buildings, two miles north of Capitol Drive on Highway 100. Inside there were tile baths, tubs and showers, carpeting, radiant heat, TV, fireproof, room telephones and air conditioning. In addition, it was a ticket agent for the S.S. Milwaukee Clipper ferry to Muskegon and could sort out your reservations for you. As the postcard noted, the motel was "on the by-pass route ... 15 minutes to the heart of Milwaukee."
9717 W. Appleton Ave.
The Port Motel, which has the look of having been built in stages has two lodging sections attached to a private house – all adorned with little matching gables – is a bit of an optical illusion. An earlier black and white postcard has a photo taken from a different angle in which you can see that the section at the right is a separate building, located a bit further back. The 1960s era postcard offers this basic description: "Color television – air conditioned – private bath with shower – carpeting." The earlier card notes the owners as Marcel and Norma Laventure. Not only is the building still there, the Port is apparently still open.
Blue Crest Motel
10900 W. Bluemound Rd., Wauwatosa
Motels in Milwaukee must have been popular with visiting baseball fans because numerous postcards, including this one from 1960, refer to the distance to County Stadium. This one, now demolished, says it was "15 minutes to Braves Stadium," reminding us that it was before Interstate 94 was constructed. The Blue Crest, which boasted its own teletype number, also had, in the words of this card, "66 modern air-conditioned rooms with T.V. and 24 hour phone service. Heated swimming poll. Meeting room facilities for groups accommodating 10 to 125 people. Coffee shop, dining room and cocktail bar."
Holiday Inn Central
1926 W. Wisconsin Ave.
The Holiday Inn chain of hotels and motels dates to 1952 and quickly became a trusted brand among motoring families thanks to its uniform approach and seemingly countless locations. This 1965 postcard shows the former Coach House Motor Inn, which had just been rebranded a Holiday Inn. In September of the previous year, the seventh floor had been the Beatles’ home base during their sole visit to Milwaukee. Now it’s Marquette University’s Mashuda Hall dorms. In ‘65 it was home to the Carriage Restaurant and the Coach Room Lounge.
Holiday Inn North
5423 N. Port Washington Rd., Glendale
Torn down and replaced by a La Quinta Inn & Suites, the Holiday Inn North looked like the place to be, especially if you had a family in tow and wanted to test our your new swim cap. Just 10 minutes from Downtown Milwaukee, the card notes, it had, "exquisite guest accommodations, meeting facilities and a restaurant and lounge."
Holiday Inn West
201 N. Mayfair Rd., Wauwatosa
This Holiday Inn location, which opened in 1965, was so representative of the brand that its image was used on generic Holiday Inn postcards used to promote properties in other states. Replaced by an Ascension medical facility, this place offered, "exquisite dining in our Red Lantern Restaurant ... cocktails served in the old English setting of our Red Fox Tavern ... (and) playground facilities for the children."
4300 S. 27th St.
Razed and replaced by an Advance Auto Parts on the corner of Cold Spring Road, Krueger’s claimed to be, "Milwaukee’s finest," with "51 rooms with all the latest conveniences. Air conditioning, wall to wall carpet." It also had a lunch counter, at least in its earlier days. It appears to have, at some point, undergone a renovation or reconstruction in a Colonial style. The photo here is on the earlier iteration.
Pine View Motel
5050 S. 108th St., Greenfield
Located on the far southwest side, the Pine View Motel had an amazing period sign out front. This 1961 postcard described the place – owned by Roger and Dores Steckhan – as, "Ultra modern motel on spacious landscaped grounds. 20 beautifully appointed units, complete with wall to wall carpeting, hot water heat, ceramic tile baths, glass enclosed showers or tubs. Phones, TV, Hi-Fi music in every room. Completely air conditioned." The low, long building is still there, but the sign isn’t.
6798 W. Appleton Ave.
This distinctively colored building survives – without the variegated panels – as the American Inn Motel. This 1961 postcard says that the Safari – run by Ed. Tegge and Marv Erickson – had, "35 modern air conditioned thermostat controlled heated units. Free TV. Telephone service. Moderate rates," and was, like the Blue Crest, "15 minutes from the heart of the city and the Braves Stadium." (The card did not mention the convenient mailbox and phone booth located in the parking lot.)
Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he lived until he was 17, Bobby received his BA-Mass Communications from UWM in 1989 and has lived in Walker's Point, Bay View, Enderis Park, South Milwaukee and on the East Side.
He has published three non-fiction books in Italy – including one about an event in Milwaukee history, which was published in the U.S. in autumn 2010. Four more books, all about Milwaukee, have been published by The History Press.
With his most recent band, The Yell Leaders, Bobby released four LPs and had a songs featured in an episode of TV's "Party of Five," and films in Japan, South America and the U.S. The Yell Leaders were named the best unsigned band in their region by VH-1 as part of its Rock Across America 1998 Tour. Most recently, the band contributed tracks to a UK vinyl/CD tribute to the Redskins and collaborated on a track with Italian novelist Enrico Remmert.
He's produced three installments of the "OMCD" series of local music compilations for OnMilwaukee.com and in 2007 produced a CD of Italian music and poetry.
In 2005, he was awarded the City of Asti's (Italy) Journalism Prize for his work focusing on that area.
He can be heard weekly on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee talking about his "Urban Spelunking" series of stories.