Motels of Mesa

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The Hiway Host Motel sign on Main Street in Mesa, AZ.

The Hiway Host Motel sign on Main Street in Mesa, AZ.

On a multi-block strip of Main Street in Mesa, Arizona, one can find several old motels. The rates are cheap (especially for folks who go the weekly or monthly route) and the living can be rough. Yes, it’s a part of the city I wouldn’t care to walk in alone after dark (although I have before). Many of the folks walking around the area seem to dabble in (or perhaps concentrate on) methamphetamine, which leads me to refer to the neighborhood places of lodging as “meth motels.”

img_5963As is often the case, it wasn’t always this way. Main Street in Mesa was once part of U.S. Route 80. According to a vintage postcard website (http://nostalgia.esmartkid.com/azroute80pc.html),

U. S. Highway 80 was one of the original Federal Highways commissioned in 1926 along with some of its more famous newly numbered cousins such as U. S. 66 – “The Mother Road”, U. S. 30 – “The Lincoln Highway”, and U. S. 40 – “The National Highway…”

[I]t was probably more important [than the other, more famous, named highways mentioned above] because it was an all-weather, all-year route that was dependable to transcontinental travelers.

Wikipedia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/U.S._Route_80_in_Arizona) says,

U.S. Route 80 (US 80) also known as the Ocean-to-Ocean Highway was a major transcontinental highway which existed in the U.S. state of Arizona from November 11, 1926 to October 6, 1989.[2][4] At its peak, US 80 traveled from the California border in Yuma to the New Mexico state line near Lordsburg...[5]

Low weekly rates appeal to the modern clientele on Mesa's Main Street.

Low weekly rates and kitchenettes at the Trava-Leers Motel probably appeal to the modern clientele on Mesa’s Main Street.

US 80 was a particularly long highway, reaching almost 500 miles (800 km) long within the state of Arizona alone.[7] With the advent of the Interstate Highway System, Interstate 10 and Interstate 8 both replaced US 80 within the state.[8] US 80 was removed from Arizona in 1989; the remainder of it now being State Route 80.[5]

The folks who named this hotel didn't know--or didn't care--that kivas are used religiously and people from the Pueblo tribes don't wear feather headdresses.

The folks who named this hotel and designed the sign didn’t know–or didn’t care–that kivas are used religiously and people from the Pueblo tribes don’t wear feather headdresses.

Question: What do road-weary travelers driving on a coast-to-coast highway eventually need?

Answer: A clean, comfortable place to spend the night.

In a 2012 article about preservation of the neon history on Main Street in Mesa (https://cronkitenewsonline.com

I think "refrigerated" meant "air conditioned."

I think “refrigerated” meant “air conditioned.”

/2012/09/mesa-group-works-to-preserve-neon-history-along-main-street/index.html), president of the Mesa Preservation Foundation Victor Linoff said,

From quite a distance, you’re traveling in your car, you’re tired, you want to stop for the night or get something to eat. These signs pulled you in. They were like beacons in the night.

In the aforementioned article, Demion Clinco, president of the Tucson Historic Preservation Foundation, said of neon signs,

They are emblematic of the classic automobile age in America, [t]hat mid-century modern highway culture that just doesn’t exist anymore.

Not all of the old motels on Main Street have neon signs. Maybe some of them never had neon and simply relied on their competitors’ signs to draw enough people into the general area. There were probably enough drivers passing through to ensure every business got a piece of the pie.  Some neon signs have been lost to the ravages of time. At least a couple of the motels lacking cool signs still boast cool architecture.

This photo shows a view of the Citrus Inn. There are parking spots for cars between the rooms.

This photo shows a view of the Citrus Inn. There are parking spots for cars between the rooms. The Citrus Inn has a really boring, modern sign, but its architecture is old-fashioned cool.

I particularly like the motels with parking spaces between the rooms. The Citrus Inn is designed this way. The open space between the two rooms is big enough for two cars. A covered parking area is a huge luxury for anyone whose car would otherwise be pounded by the Arizona summer sun.

I think this photo shows the Kiva Lodge, but I'm not positive. In any case, it's another example a motel with covered parking next to the rooms. I also like the turquoise accents and the red Spanish tile on the awning.

I think this photo shows the Kiva Lodge, but I’m not positive. In any case, it’s another example a motel with covered parking next to the rooms. I also like the turquoise accents and the red Spanish tile on the awning.

The motels of Mesa and their signs are part of Arizona history and U.S. history too. They are relics of a time before motel chains, when each motel on the road was part of a unique travel experience.

I took all of the photos in this post.

 

One Response »

  1. “A clean, comfortable place to spend the night.”

    Well, they used to be, thirty years ago, but not anymore. Now they’re loaded with bedbugs and the normal-volume (and louder) conversations outside your door all night tend to keep a person awake. And they may break into your van.

    Their main (and perhaps only) value is for their showers, and it’s cheaper (and probably cleaner) to buy a membership in a widespread chain of gyms.

I'd love to know what you think. Please leave a reply