I’ve written about the National Road in Illinois many times before. But as I deprecate my old Roads site, I need to bring a few articles about the road in Illinois from there to here. This is the last of them. This is based on recent research and a visit in 2007.

As we entered Effingham, we missed a sign telling us to fork right to stay on the National Road. As we looked for a place to turn around, we came upon this old motel on US 40.

Effingham Motel

This motel is on current US 40. This might also be the National Road as well, despite the earlier sign directing drivers along a different path. I covered the two possible National Road alignments in Effingham in an earlier post; click here to read it.

The motel was a going concern. Apparently, the half-ton truck convention was staying here. Or perhaps the motel was next to the Dodge dealership. I can’t remember which.

Effingham Motel

Twelve miles past Effingham is Altamont. We didn’t plan to stop here, but we found an old motel still operating on the corner of Cumberland Rd. and Main St.

Altamont Motel

We parked in front of a Laundromat next door and started taking pictures. An Indian fellow came out with his young son, quite concerned, wondering why we were taking pictures of his motel. He was relieved to learn we were just tourists exploring the National Road. He told us that the motel was built in 1959, and that he never turned on the lights on the Inn sign. He gave us permission to take all the photos we wanted.

The limestone hotel looked well cared for.

Altamont Motel

The motel sign said, “American Owned.” The Indian fellow must have become a citizen to be able to claim that.

Altamont Motel

So many of these older motels become run down and dirty, but this one gets pretty good reviews online.

Altamont Motel

When we returned to my car, I discovered that I was blocking the parking spaces for the Laundromat, which I thought was closed. Two cars had managed to get around my car and park. As we approached my car, a couple came out wondering why we were taking pictures. They were disappointed to learn we were just National Road tourists out exploring. They had hoped we were investors looking for property to buy in their small town. The young man lamented how many businesses had closed in recent years and hoped someone would buy and reopen the convenience store that sat across from the motel.

About six miles later we came upon tiny St. Elmo. We passed through it as quickly as we entered it, but not without noticing its old homes. Just west of town we came upon two old motels, both in limestone, one operating and one decaying. The hotel on the north side of the road, of limestone and trimmed in turquoise, appeared to be half occupied that day.

Motel property

The owners had added a pool, but placed it out front. I can’t imagine swimming in view of a highway.

Motel property

Everything looked neat and clean.

Motel property

A little side building that looked like a diner had a sign on it saying that it would soon reopen as a restaurant.

Motel property

The motel across the street did not get this kid of attention. It looked abandoned.

Derelict motel

Past St. Elmo we soon came upon a confluence of old roads, where the National Road, US 40, and I-70 all meet. I wrote about it here.

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7 responses to “Classic motels on the National Road/US 40 in central Illinois”

  1. Andy Umbo Avatar
    Andy Umbo

    Nice selection of roadside inns! I used to work with a photo stylist that found one of these on the outskirts of Milwaukee owned for years by the same family, and it was well cared for and very clean, even a nice old 50’s pool. She started staying there every time she was working with us, at about a third the price of a standard hotel! I’m always too scared to try these when I see them, but she was the type that would be drawn to them!

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      When you find one that well cared for, it’s a treasure. When my boys and I did Route 66, we found a few that were great — and a few that were not.

  2. Dan Cluley Avatar
    Dan Cluley

    Lansing has quite a few older motels on the various old highways, but I think they have pretty much all basically become cheap apartments.

    I did have a very pleasant stay a few years ago at “Al & Sally’s” on US-12 west of Michigan City. The great sign was still up at the “Blackwawk” next door but I think it has been closed for a while.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      We used to call those “sleeping rooms” — not quite full apartments because there’s no kitchen.

  3. seatacphoto1951 Avatar

    Many of the motels out West have become homeless shelters.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Many of ours are the only thing keeping some people from being homeless.

  4. Kiflam D Hurlbut Avatar
    Kiflam D Hurlbut

    Whenever in Effingham I always ask for an Effingham Sandwich.

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