Childhood Haunt . Chicago
Normally I would worry for someone reminiscing fondly of a two star budget motel abutting a downtown off ramp. But if that motel helped create happy family vacation memories then it’s understandable. I think.
Growing up in Michigan we made frequent family trips to Chicago. I remember we often stayed at a Days Inn a few blocks southwest of the Sears Tower. The Days Inn offered budget rooms, cheap parking, a pool, and being frugal Dutch folk saw no reason to indulge ourselves with such luxuries as mildew free curtains or functioning elevators.
When in Chicago I’m usually on the north side, but this time stayed in the south loop. With some time to kill on a Saturday afternoon I went for a walk with no destination in mind. The logical choice would be the lakeshore and Grant Park, sparkling and sunny this Memorial Day weekend, but some exploring sounded more interesting so I set out to find my old motel..
The one highlight I remember most was the diamond shaped rooftop pool, which at 10 years old was a real treat after trundling around the city all day. When atop the Sears Tower I would look down excited that I could spot our tiny ant size hotel among the grid of streets and other buildings. Did I say “Sears” Tower? I’m sorry, I meant the soon to be “Willis” Tower.
I headed towards the Sears Tower, and over the Van Buren street bridge. I was surprised to see the main post office had been shut down. A friend later told me it’s been that way for several years. This building, eating up two entire city blocks along the river, is a behemoth structure with the Eisenhower Expressway running under it. With enormous interior spaces it would be a challenge to reinvent as residential. Current retail trends favors outdoor walkable spaces, which leaves this building waiting for some sort of factory or manufacturing base – which it will probably never see. Not as many people send letters now, (which is correct – I haven’t MAILED a bill anywhere in years,) and technology is more advanced and physically compact. In its heyday I picture the building filled of mazes of roller coaster looking conveyer belts and sorting machines – spinning and whirling letters around like bottles in a brewery.
I walked along Canal Street, which runs under interstate 290. I hadn’t remembered traversing this grubby portion under the expressway to access the touristy parts of Chicago.
The building was still standing. It’s now a Holiday Inn Hotel and Suites. However it looked nothing like the picture in my mind. I remember the old Days Inn having very narrow windows, and being quite dark and gloomy inside. I was certain the structure had been razed and a new building was in its place. I headed inside and saw a standard check in area and small lobby.
I took the elevator up to the pool, and contrary to my prediction the diamond shaped pool was still there. So apparently the building had been gutted and remodeled, but not completely razed.
Although the walk under the freeway isn’t very enticing, overall it looks like a decent place to stay. It wouldn’t be my first choice, but for a brief overnight would be acceptable. There are some nice condos opposite the building on South Clinton and the Blue Line is a block away. Tripadvisor’s reviews average out quite high, so the staff must be doing a good job.
Next time I’ll have to find that building where I got my arm stuck in the revolving door. Meanwhile I hope something good happens with the post office.
Related: Sherman Tower or Mezzo . Denver
James Van Dellen Denver