24 March 2014

Lost City: Chicago Edition: Ohio House Motel

I would never stay at the Ohio House Motel, but I am fascinated by its continued existence on a considerable chuck of real estate in downtown Chicago. It's like somebody dropped a 1950s roadside motel in the center of a crowded city block. The check-in building and (now closed) Coffee Shop, as well as the lodgings, are a mere two stories high and sport a recurring diamond pattern that must have been fabulous when the place opened in December 1960. And there is plenty of parking. It's a wonder, given the overall style, that there's not an outdoor pool.

The curious name comes from its location—the corner of Ohio and LaSalle Streets. According to the motel's rather proud-sounding website:
Planning for the Ohio House began in 1959, when the Miller Development Company proposed a 48-room motel on a downtown lot owned by the Chicago Board of Education, which had previously held a school. Architect was Arthur Salk of Shayman and Salk, who also designed the Summit Motel on Lincoln and the LaSalle Motor Lodge at LaSalle & Superior (now a Howard Johnson); the firm’s stamp was also on many apartment buildings in the inner suburbs. Construction cost was $500,000. The development needed a zoning variance to build at the back of the lot (without a rear yard) and for its deficit of off-street parking
In the late 1990s, as the neighborhood transitioned from seedy to gentrified, the motel’s owner planned to demolish the motel and replace it with a far larger chain franchise. The building’s demolition was announced as imminent in 2001. Yet the plans never went through, and the motel still offers clean and remarkably affordable rooms right in downtown.
Affordable, yes. Clean? I didn't check to make sure. I would, however, patronize that groovy Coffee Shop if it ever opens again. Check out the below sketch for an image of the Ohio House Motel in better times.


Mitch said...

I wonder if it's covered by some sort of landmarks law.

Ed said...

Why not stay in this place? The location is actually pretty decent, and as long as its clean the rooms are well priced.

Brooks of Sheffield said...

One word: bedbugs. I'm not saying they have them. But in these days of bedbug outbreaks you can't be too careful. Any hotel that seems even the least bit sketchy is a candidate for infestation.

Losing My Marbles said...

I stayed here a few years ago. The coffee shop was still open (no frills, but more charm than a Denny's). It was a cool place, but it is not really embracing it's unique retro vibe. Still, great location, walk to everywhere, free wifi, and (maybe I got lucky) no bedbugs :)