Being the Nation’s Capital, Ottawa has never been a stranger to tourists during the summer months, even more so this year being Canada’s 150th. Droves of out-of-towners eager to take in the sights and sounds of Ottawa’s attractions have been coming here and resting their heads in hotels and inns over the many years Ottawa has been the capital city.
An accommodation phenomena called the “Motor-Inn” or “motel” was a hotel designed especially for these tourists arriving by car with a parking area for their motor vehicles. The word “MOTEL” entered the dictionary during World War II, defined as a hotel consisting of a single building of connected rooms whose doors faced a parking lot and in some circumstances, a common area or a series of small cabins with common parking.
As more and more tourists flocked to Ottawa during the summer months, motels began to spring up across the city providing easily accessible overnight accommodation sites close to the main highways. These motels were most popular in the 1960s with growing car travel, but they later fell into disparity as major freeways re-routed tourists from the city’s main streets.
Here in Ottawa, they were many motels but sadly most are now long gone, and any surviving ones have been horribly transformed into grotesque skeletons of their former selves. Today, there are a few hidden clues to indicate the illustrious mid-century architecture of these once unique motels.
Let’s go back in time and check in to these cool lost motels…
MOTEL DE VILLE
Located at 333 Montreal Road, this amazing original motel once boasted “radios and televisions” in each room. There was also air conditioning, and “large ceramic tiled bathrooms” along with a swimming pool.
The very mi-century modern deign of the original motel featured the cantilevered roof over the lobby and a very eye catching sign. This motel later changed into the “Concorde Motel”, and its unique overhang was chopped off and any indication of its original form was lost. The Concorde still exists today, and its website photos reveal it still contains the original bed frames as seen in the 1960’s postcard of the old Motel DeVille. You can cruise by and check out this cool old motel that looks different from the outside and visit their website that shows really not much has changed inside. Props to them for maintaining this unique motel’s past!
THE WHITE HOUSE
Perhaps copying the capital city to the south of us, Ottawa had its own “White House” in the form of the motel at 2583 Carling Ave. Boasting heated rooms all year round as well as being one of the finest motels in the Ottawa Area, this classic motel was located next to Lincoln Fields where an All-You-Can-Eat Chinese Buffet was also once located.
It seems the White House crumbled and is now just an abandoned building soon to become a Self-Storage facility. We will keep an eye on the other White House to see if it suffers the same fate as Ottawa’s White House.
THE BUTLER MOTOR HOTEL
Once having a posh butler cartoon character to welcome guests, the Butler Motor Hotel has been so horribly modified from its original form that you may not recognize it as one of the finest motels in Ottawa complete with a lounge in the basement, “The Coachman” that hosted musical acts in its 1960s heyday. Today, the Ottawa Plaza Inn reveals little of its mid-century past.
The above three motels are but a snippet of the many motels that once graced Ottawa’s streets, a lost form of accommodation for tourists to the city. I often wonder what it would be like if Ottawa followed California’s Palm Springs lead in preserving their mid-century modernist motel and commercial architecture, attracting fans not only of the city’s tourist attractions, but also the unique commercial architecture we once had.
Andrew King, July 2017
They are fascinating
When I go up to Flagstaff AZ it is on the old Route 66. There are a lot of little motels like this one. I wonder how they keep going given the lack of modern amenities. I can’t imagine the younger ones holding onto the allure that was grandparents.
Those were wonderful years. Full employment, prosperity, censorship which protected families from the smut common in today’s tv and films. In those days, the husband’s wage not only paid the mortgage, the family car, children’s education and the upkeep of the family home … there was also enough left over for savings which provided family holidays at least once a year. I grew up on the Gold Coast in Queensland, Australia, and my father built many motels much like those in the above photos. Some are still standing, although most have succumbed to high-rise developments. Seeing the photos above and those of Surfers Paradise (on Queensland’s Gold Coast) evokes such happy memories and captures the wonderful atmosphere of those days.
I’m wondering how they hold going given the dearth of cutting-edge amenities. I will consider the younger ones maintaining the charm that was grandparents
I wound up here having found an old book of matches amongst my father’s things, it reads, “the Butler Motor Hotel” Ottawa! Great article, and yes sad to see that most of these architectural time capsules are gone.
Thanks for reading!
I have good reason to miss the Butler Motel more than most I think. It is where I was raised. I learned recently that the Butler Lounge was a Beacon of culture. It is where Rich Little recorded his first album “My Fellow Canadians”.