The Sunset Motel

Located at the not-so-scenic South East corner of 12th Street and Marion Road,

at one time this hotel was an oasis to the weary traveler.

 

 
 
  When driving down U.S. Highway 16 in the black of night, barely keeping it between the ditches, the neon light of the motel sign is a welcome relief. Pulling into the lot you can almost feel the crisp, clean sheets. The friendly motel owner has you sign your name in the big book before handing you the key, attached to an oversized green plastic fob.     Just the name of the Sunset seems to say, haven't you been driving long enough? Come on in, put your feet up, turn on the TV. Turn your back on the road for a while.

 

 
 

Here's the second to the last version of the Sunset Motel sign. As far as I can tell the Sunset never had a swimming pool. They did, however, have an additional building added to the original L-shaped layout.

Marion road, which runs to the right, was at the time, a little two-laner with very little traffic. I recall being a bit scared of driving Marion road when I first started driving my double-wide 1970 Buick LeSabre back in 1986. Especially at night. It was pot-holed like crazy and had a tiny bridge crossing Skunk creek that seemed too narrow for two cars to be on at the same time. By contrast, Marion Road is now 5-lanes wide between 12th St. and 41st.

Here is that same corner in early 2006. The three proud I-beams just left of center are the remaining pieces of the last version of the sign. Basically they just hoisted the sign from the ground up onto this towering structure to act as a beacon of hope to the Sioux Falls-bound traveler. I wish I had a picture of the sign before they took it down in the early 2000s. They tore down the buildings about a year before getting rid of the sign, but haven't done jack with the site.

 

Here's a closer look at the classic signage of the Sunset Motel. Click on the card to get an even closer look or click here to get this classic card in desktop picture/wallpaper form.

The Sunset touts itself as a salesmen's stop. The DeLux did as well. I'm not sure what would qualify a motel as a salesmen's stop. Perhaps the guild of reputable salesmen had to evaluate each motel in turn and consult a 100-point quality guide. Or maybe the motels just put it on their sign to attract that lucrative salesman buck.

  The crest of the sign seems to have a common ancestor to the old Sunshine Food Stores logo pictured above. If you follow the link, you'll see that they've updated their "Sunshine Dude" (my lingo). I prefer the old-school dude, myself. His smile seems to say "How ya' doin', pal?"
                 
 

Here's the spot where the bulk of the Sunset motel once provided rest and possibly Magic Fingers-based relaxation for the road-wary.

The photo shows some staging for some major road work coming up (it's done by now). In a month's time, they filled the lot with excavation equipment and giant cement tubes and such. I wonder if they tore it down with the road work in mind. Its vacancy sign was darkened by the time they ripped it out. There's not much room in the world for the small motel these days. Still, it'd be nice to have the sign still there as an homage.

Alas, the light has gone out for the Sunset Motel. While this light used to offer a welcome illumination for the road-weary, it's gone now.

In the '80s my father and I traveled hundreds of miles on bicycle hauling our camping gear from motel to motel. Mostly we stayed in smaller Mom and Pop places and they were comfortable and just what we needed. On the final night of a long trip we decided to treat ourselves with a visit to one of the big chains. We were disappointed. With all the extra expense (it was at least twice as expensive), it was less comfortable and seemed carelessly assembled. Give me the small motel any day.

Update: Since the roadwork has been completed, the owner of the land has put up a mini mall.

Page Updated: 12/01/2012

© www.GreetingsFromSiouxFalls.com