Thursday, January 28, 2016

Just in the Nick of Time – Bel-Aire Manor Motel

In Joann’s recap of our photography adventures for 2015, she mentioned that we had spent some time in Springfield, Illinois on our spring trip.

After all of the activities were over for the Lincoln Funeral Reenactment, we decided to stay one more night at our motel, and catch some old Route 66 items before we left town. We had been to Springfield once before, but only for a quick overnight stay on our way to the Ozarks in 2008.

Several alignments of Route 66 run through Springfield, and we decided to take a different alignment this time. Many of the items I had marked were on Business Route 55 or 6th St. This was city Route 66.

One of our stops on the southern end of town was the Bel-Aire Motel for its signs. The signs included a former neon MOTEL sign with a large Sputnik ball. The ball also used to light and twinkle at night. This was the first true Sputnik ball that we had found to photograph.

This Sputnik was a low-end model that did not rotate. It was probably made by a company in California. Salesmen would travel Route 66 targeting motels for the signs. The Sputnik sign probably went up at the Bel-Aire Motel in the early 1960’s.

These Sputnik signs used to be common as a way to grab the attention of travelers after the former Soviet Union launched the first satellite, Sputnik 1, into space in 1957.

The Bel-Aire Manor Motel was a 60’s era motel with 80 rooms. In its heyday, it was probably full every night. When we passed by, it was vacant and enclosed within a chain link fence. Just another old motel on its last legs.

We left Springfield on May 4th, and over the weekend of May 16-17, the Sputnik ball was removed by the ACE Sign Co. Luckily, the sign will be restored to its former glory and will be on display at the sign museum in Springfield.

Shortly after we arrived home, I was catching up on my blogs and websites that I follow and found an article that demolition of the Bel-Aire Motel had begun. This is the first we realized that we had made our visit just in the nick of time.

How lucky for us that we decided to spend some extra time that Monday morning in Springfield! It makes us eager to hit the road every chance we get and to capture everything we possibly can. After all, who knows if things will be there the next time we pass by.

Happy Shunpiking!


  1. Nice pics as usual. I don't remember this motel. But, it has been over 36 years, since I last visited Springfield. :)

  2. I don't remember seeing this motel when we drove Route 66 in 2011. But as you said, there are multiple routes through that area. Thanks for sharing the story and photos. We've been on a lot of wonderful trips over the years but I think we had the most fun when we drove Route 66 - so much history on that route! There is still a lot to see along the way and lots of people at various artifacts just waiting to share stories of the heydays of Route 66 with visitors. We would love to do it again because you sure can't see it all in one trip! Sadly, things continue to disappear, as you two have often experienced.

  3. Forgot to check notify so doing that now!

    1. Thanks Phyllis! Gosh, it was 2011 when you took your trip? Time sure flies! We want to travel more of Route 66. You're right about how much there is to see and how hard it would be to get it all in one trip. So far we've only traveled small sections on our way to somewhere. This along with Shea's Gas Station museum in Springfield are now only memories. We saw Shea's on our first trip through Springfield, but sadly it wasn't open and was behind a chain link fence. 2016 is the 90th anniversary of the Mother Road, so we'll have another post later this year.

    2. Time sure does fly, Ruth! We went to Shea's and though it wasn't open, the gate was open so we walked in and got some nice photos from inside the fence. We also went to Cozy Drive In - home of the Cozy Dog and had lunch. If you haven't been there you should go the next time you're in Springfield - fun place! Can't wait for more of your Route 66 posts!