Last Days of the St-Elmo-Tel

South Congress Avenue is home to half a dozen, or so, remnants of the mid-twentieth century age of automobiles–little motor courts that scream “Road trip!” I’ve always been attracted to these motor courts and imagined them recycled as cute urban garden apartments. The Hotel San Jose is a great example of classy redevelopment. And across from St. Edward’s University, 3100 South Congress has been converted into a funky strip mall complete with retro shops and an Amy’s Ice Cream. But the Don-Mar Motor Court, just south of Fulmore Middle School is up for sale with plans to tear it down and replace it with a mixed-use space including 64 condos.

So I was very sad to drive down South Congress past St. Elmo’s Road where the very punny St-Elmo-Tel stood. This was one of the best examples of a motor court in Austin, complete with carports attached to the single room duplex units. Now the doors to the rooms are wide open with junked up furniture strewn inside. The keys to the rooms still hang in the shattered front office. A little piece of classic Austin has just died an unheralded death.

What a great movie set this would have made. Any chance we can get Robert Rodriguez or Quentin Tarantino to salvage the wonderful sign?

3 Comments so far

  1. Jonathon (unregistered) on October 2nd, 2006 @ 11:10 am

    Save the sign, totally. The motel? Ok, I’ll admit, I’m glad to see it go. I don’t live too far from there and…well…it looks like a place to have sex with hookers.

    There, I said it.


  2. mss (unregistered) on October 2nd, 2006 @ 12:44 pm

    Oh, you’re not the only one to think so. I found this odd bit of fiction that uses the St-Elmo-Tel as a setting for an erotic encounter.

    It’s fallen on hard times but once it was “Austin’s finest motel”–according to one postcard I found on eBay.


  3. Annie In Austin (unregistered) on October 3rd, 2006 @ 12:15 pm

    Who can resist the ‘very punny’ stuff? Not me! “ST-ELMO-TEL” must have been something in the forties. I wonder if Austin Studios would be interested in the sign?

    I love this post, MSS, and the fiction link was hysterical.

    Annie at the Transplantable Rose



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