Built St. Louis > > Vanished Buildings > > The Coral Court Motel

Spring 1994.

Spring 1995. Preliminary demolition clearance has already begun; the cap of the motel's entry sign has been removed, and some of the units have had their glass block torn out.

The Coral Court Motel
If ever there were a city hung up on its past, surely it is St. Louis. But as World's Fair-obsessed as St. Louis tends to be, there are other periods it neglects completely. Its role in the history of Route 66 is a prime example. Look up any book on the Mother Road from before 1995, and St. Louis's Coral Court motel, built in 1941, is sure to get a mention.

Located on Watson Road, on the south side of the city, the Coral Court was an Art Deco streamline fantasy. The collection of yellow-tiled two-unit buildings with glass-brick walls and brown trim was noteworthy enough to recieve its own entry in the excellent Guide to the Architecture of St. Louis. Amid the buildings' glass brick and yellow-glazed tile, one could stand immersed in history; one could see what the mind of fifty years ago considered the future to be.

The motel's actual use was a bit more controversial -- it became famous for illicit encounters, as the individual garage units allowed one to park the car out of sight. A night at the Coral Court was considered by many to be a classic St. Louis experience, and the motel itself was a remarkable bit of twentieth-century Americana. For many travelers it captured the very essence of Route 66. It easily ranked as one of St. Louis's most famous structures.

Yet in spite of all this nostalgia and history, not to mention nomination to the National Register of Historic Places, the motel's owner decided it wasn't worth keeping, and the town of Marlborough (the St. Louis suburb where the motel was located) was unable or unwilling to intervene. In the spring of 1995 the units were completely demolished. A cookie-cutter subdivision of private homes has risen in their place, the suburbs coming to the city, a non-place where once there was history and significance.

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