It opened in 1947, or maybe 1952 as the Marble Motel. Or maybe the facade was remodeled in 1952. It’s early history is a bit of mystery. But there is no mystery about the value of the treasure that is Earl’s Motor Court at 512 E. 3rd Street on Route 66 in Winslow, Arizona. It is priceless. And it is the oldest operating motel in this historic town rooted in territorial Arizona history.
I have been hearing wonderful things about this venerable old motel for several years. And I wasn’t disappointed.
HIstoric properties are a lot like vintage cars. You can restore a car or truck and turn the old relic into a dependable driver. You can restore them to better than new condition and still have a tangible link to another era. And when you take them out on an old road like Route 66, they become a time machine. But they are only original once.
For me our stay at Earl’s Motor Court was time travel, or at least as close as I can get. We rolled into the parking lot and in an instant I was transported to 1964.
With clarity I could see pa with one sunburnt arm propped on the door, and a tanned hand with scarred and gnarled knuckles on the wheel of his nearly new 1964 Ford Fairlane. That dark blue sedan with three on the tree carried the family on many an adventure until it was rear ended by a drunk driver on a rainy dark night near Fort Sumner, New Mexico back around 1969.
We usually camped along the road about as often as we stayed in a motel in those years. But on the nights that we slept in a bed rather than in a bedroll, the backseat or the back of the truck, it was usually in a motel just like Earl’s Motor Court.
The places where we stopped for the night often dated to the 1940s, or maybe even the 1930s. They were no competition for the likes of Holiday Inn or Travelodge. And they weren’t generic. Each was as unique as a sunset at the Painted Desert.
The motels showed their age, but in a pleasant welcoming way, sort of like grandpas house. Management was often a family affair with kids my age sweeping floors, cleaning windows, or taking out garbage. The office was usually the families living room. The family dog was the greeter.
The repairs made over the years were functional and were a blending of syles. Likewise with the furniture. But the owners kept them clean. During the months of winter there were often home made quilts on the bed. And there were the personal touches like home made muffins in the morning, or fresh fruit.
I have some fond memories of those travels that with the passing of years have faded a bit like a sepia toned print. A stay at Earl’s Motor Court, and a visit with Blas, Angela, the boys, and Buffalo that was going grey at the muzzle, restored those memories. And for that I will always be grateful that this gem is being preserved for a new generation.