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.