I remember a lot of neon signs on Glenstone Avenue, when I was a kid. Our family would drive in from Iowa to visit grandparents and cousins in Springfield.
I don't exactly remember Rail Haven from childhood, but it was there. It was one of many motels and motor courts, with inviting pools and grassy playgrounds.
The old neon sign used to be on the corner of Glenstone and St. Louis Street. St. Louis Street was once part of Rt 66. Long before that, the land was an apple orchard.
In 1938, eight sandstone cottages were built and the business was enlarged over time. Eventually Rail Haven took on the motel look, popular in the 1950's.
Today, the glowing Rail Haven sign is near the rear of the complex. I didn't photograph the boring, blue, Best Western sign that is now in front. I didn't want to be reminded that we were staying at a chain motel.
But, while wandering the grounds a bit, I found this retro yellow sign with the old 5-point crown. It was attached to one of the original cottages. The 1960's style sign reminded me that Rail Haven became a part of Best Western, back when I was a kid. That's a piece of motel history worth noting.
I believe at one point the office for the motor-courts, was across the street at a gas station.
Now the office sits proudly on the corner, with lots of 1950's era decor to honor the Route 66 history.
The gas pumps are a reminder of the station, that once held the motel office.
Gas stations and motels must have been big business in 1938, when Route 66 was quite young. It's fun to picture the busy auto traffic along the Mother Road, from Chicago to California.
The lobby with the rounded, glass block desk, had more of a 1960's feel. The staff was very friendly.
They were too young to remember the evolution of the motel, but the young man at the desk said his father had shared a lot of that history with him.
At check-in, the breakfast area was empty. But in the morning there was complimentary breakfast, with a few hot options.
The motel's original phone booth with rotary dial was tucked back behind the stools.
Like so many roadside motels, it's hard to see the old, after renovations.
But the rectangular cupolas on the roof, made me think Howard Johnson's. And our room with the high window, had a retro feel.
Not The Elvis Room
Our room didn't look like the room Elvis stayed in, when he was in town performing in the 1950's. Evidently he was booked at the Kentwood Arms Hotel, but preferred a motel and moved over here.
He probably liked being able to pull right up to the room and walk in... just like we did. Today, the hotel's Elvis Room is decorated with a bed that looks like a pink Cadillac and giant retro murals.
A Little Nostalgia
We got a tiny bit of motel nostalgia, in the bathroom with the flesh colored tile and the small frosted window.
Everything else was nice and updated, so no complaints.
Quiet on a Cool Night
The covered patio was empty on a cool evening. It was actually pretty nice with tables and a couple of mounted TVs, showing retro black and white sitcoms.
I'm pretty sure this area was once where the kiddie playground used to be, beside the pool. I read that they once had horse shaped swings, aimed westward, so little cowgirls and cowboys could ride towards the old west!
Some Old Stuff
And in a sort of forgotten area in the back, I found an old slide. It looked just like the metal slides I remember burning my legs on when I was a kid!
There was also a portion of split rail fence. Not the original, I'm sure. But the motel got its name from the fence that surrounded the property.
It was an easy, economical and comfortable stay, with some fun hints of the past.
The room, breakfast and even the lobby will probably fade from memory, but I'll remember the signs. As a kid, Glenstone was magical at night, with all the colorful neon. I never thought I'd be staying at one of those motels!
My New Year's Resolution for 2014 was to start documenting some of the memorable overnights I've had in some very odd and curious motels and hotels. Like the adventures in my Dining Blog, I have learned to enjoy the surprises that happen when you step out of the comfort zone, far away from the well-known chains.
I began with a few entries recalling my very first home away from home memories from my youth. Then, I started sharing about some of the quirky and unforgettable motels, hotels and inns that my husband and I have discovered in recent years.
The best part about this challenge was making some lists with Don and getting on the road in search of new overnight adventures. I gave myself a 2-year goal to write up 90 stories and the goal was met. Now we just keep on adding!