Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Trail’s End Motel on U.S. 20

Vintage postcard currently on Ebay
Many years before I started to blog about local history, I was an old road buff. My idea of fun was driving the old federal highways in Ohio and photographing old motels, drive-in theaters, roadside diners and bypassed road alignments. (Regular blog contributor Rick Kurish did the same thing during the same time frame.)  I spent a lot of time on U.S. 40 (the National Road), U.S. 30 (the Lincoln Highway) and U.S. 20.

One of the motels on U. S. Route 20 that I photographed back in the late 1980s / early 1990s was the Trail’s End Motel, located just east of Monroeville. It had a great neon sign out front with an attractive painted rendering of James Earle Fraser's iconic sculpture End of the Trail, which depicted an Indian slumping forlornly on his horse.

The motel was still in business back then, and I grabbed a few photos (below).

A few years later, I happened to be out that way and was dismayed to discover that the classic sign had been given a new paint job that all but destroyed its vintage roadside charm. 
Around 1999, author Dr. Andrew Wood paid a visit to Trail’s End Motel, which he wrote about here. He also photographed the motel’s sign (below) and its new color scheme.

Courtesy Dr. Andrew Wood and www.sjsu.edu
Some time later, I was again driving U.S. 20 and noticed that the motel had closed. Sadly, the property was now covered with parked vehicles, and it appeared that the former motel rooms were being used for storage.
Which brings me to this past Sunday. It was a beautiful day – too nice to sit in front of a TV or computer – so I grabbed the camera and headed out towards Norwalk.
“I wonder what the Trail’s End Motel looks like now?” I mused.
After driving back and forth a few times on U.S. 20 between Monroeville and Norwalk in search of it, I had my answer: real gone, daddy-o.
Yes, the motel had been torn down, and its grounds largely cleared.
Fortunately, the motel's entrance and exit driveways, as well as the paved parking area, were still there to provide a clue to its former location. (Also, a small green sign mounted to a pole in front of the property contained the motel's 2604 numerical address.

Here are my shots from Sunday (below).
So another Ohio roadside icon bites the dust. I guess I’m lucky that I was driving around the state thirty years ago taking pictures, because many of those roadside vistas are gone now, with no evidence – other than old postcards and matchbooks on Ebay – that they ever existed.
Thanks to Rick Kurish for suggesting this post. He was also a big fan of the Trail’s End Motel sign and identified its painting for me as a representation of the famous End of the Trail sculpture.


Anonymous said...

Wonder what happened to that great motel sign?? Anyone know?

Anonymous said...

I bet it was junked.