The Original Rockford Nostalgic Website


Gallery Three

Howard Johnson's Motor Lodge

Howard Johnson's Motor Lodge, 3909 Eleventh Street, U.S. Highway 51. The "Host of the Highways" would bring their signature orange roofed motel to Rockford in 1963 which included 84 rooms. The facility was built in Howard Johnson's most classic design, with an outdoor swimming pool with an included but detached restaurant. The motel would expand in 1966 when they enclosed the pool, added a sauna and exercise and game room, children's playground and a set of tennis courts. Convention space was added in 1971 and connected the main lobby to the restaurant in the process. The restaurant lost its dairy counter in the late 1970s when the company removed it to increase dining room space. Generally, sit-down dining resulted in higher profits so many locations were remodeled. The Howard Johnson's restaurant would close in the 1980's and has been several different restaurants since.

The 1962 completion of the U.S. 20 Bypass, the main east / west route, and before the advent of Interstate 39, U. S. 51 was the main north - south route in and out of Rockford and it's close proximity to Rockford's airport would spur motel and restaurant activity in the area such as Holiday Inn and Howard Johnson's. Other motels would follow, including Regal 8 and Motel 6.

Howard Johnson's Rockford floor plan after the expansions, which added additional guest rooms and suites bringing the total to 146 rooms.

National Motor Inn

National Motor Inn at 1055 East State Street at Longwood Street. Built in 1969 it featured 115 Modern Units. Heated rooftop swimming pool, free on-site lower level parking, free TV, banquet and meeting rooms, restaurant and cocktail lounge, air conditioned, automatic elevators, ultra-modern throughout. Free reservations service to National Motor Inns in Des Moines, Waterloo, and Davenport, Iowa and Madison, Wisconsin. Motel Comfort - Downtown Convenience.

Quality Motel

Quality Motel Midtown, 1055 East State Street at Longwood. The National Motor Inn started flying the Quality Motel name in 1978. All features were tailored for the comfort and convenience of every guest. The motel included Direct Dial Telephones, Individually controlled heat and air conditioning. Valet Service, Rent - a Car Service, Free Ice and Color Television. The motel also offered a large rooftop swimming pool and free onsite parking.

The Quality Inn Midtown Front Desk and Lobby for the 116 room motel

The Restaurant at the Quality Motel Midtown

The meeting room at the Quality Motel Midtown was 75f feet by 38 feet in size. It could accommodate 200 people for a meeting or 150 for a banquet.

The Guest rooms featured two double beds in most rooms and also offered Suites

The motel also included a cocktail lounge; many might remember it as a 1920's style speakeasy called "Bennie Sent Me". Quality Motels would later change the chains name to the now familiar Quality Inn.

L' Executive Motor Lodge

L' Executive Motor Lodge, 1055 East State Street.  Featured Harrigan's Irish Pub, Mrs. Durkins Boarding House Restaurant. King size, Queen and Waterbeds were available. This would be the last motel at this location and it became Evergreen Recovery Center and Al-care Addiction Treatment Center. In 1998 Zion Development Corp. converted the building into Longwood Plaza Apartments for low income seniors.

Imperial 400 Motel

Imperial 400 Motel, 733 East State Street.  Imperial 400 was a national chain that was located coast to coast when Edward and Grace Tintera opened a franchised location in 1964. Located across the street from the Faust Hotel and situated next to the Midway Theater. The motel offered king size beds, in room TV and telephone and individually controlled air conditioning and heat settings. Other amenities were a heated swimming pool and free coffee, along with nearby entertainment, restaurants and shopping

Colonial Inn Motor Lodge

Colonial Inn Motel, 4850 East State Street. The 60 room motel opened in 1966 as Rockford continued to expand eastward toward the I-90 Tollway. The motel featured direct dial phones, message waiting service, individually controlled heat and air conditioning, sound proofed rooms, color televisions in all rooms, swimming pool, meeting room, restaurant and lounge on premises. Additional expansions would expand the motel to a total of 93 rooms.

A typical room of the Colonial Inn

Colonial Inn Restaurant as it appeared in 1980

In 1992 a car leaving the adjacent Stash O'Neils. Restaurant and Bar parking lot drove into the west side of the motel hitting a heating unit severing several gas lines resulting in an explosion and fire which leveled an entire wing. They would operate after that with only 82 rooms. After several owners and name changes the motel currently is operated as the Travel Inn.

Pump Handle Inn

The Pump Handle Inn, 2620 Eleventh Street. In September 1957 Walter A. Williamson, president of the Kelly Williamson Oil Company and Wagon Wheel Resort owner would open a restaurant at the corner of Eleventh Street and Harrison Avenue called the Pump Handle Restaurant. Around 1964 Williamson decided to expand the restaurant and build a 100 room motel on the site. Williamson petitioned the Winnebago County Zoning Board of Appeals to rezone four parcels of land on the west side of Kinsey Street to accommodate the expansion and demolish four other buildings already on the property. It would appear that the motel was built and opened in early 1965 at a cost of around $400,000. By early 1966 Williamson would expand the restaurant once again to and build an additional wing on to the motel complex, complete with a year round swimming pool, recreation facilities, massage parlor and saunas, that when complete occupied an entire one square block area.

The restaurant expansion included larger kitchen facilities, a coffee shop, cocktail lounge, private dining room, banquet room and several storefronts. A Kelly-Williamson service station was also added on to the complex. Any person familiar with the Wagon Wheel would immediately detect a definite similarity between the two operations, without being given a clue. The telephone pole has played its usual important part in the construction of the Pump Handle. Antiques were scattered about the place in apparent abandon. A walk from any one room, or section to another turned into an interesting tour of antiques and art objects. A Few items to note in particular were the watercolors on the west wall of the dining room - the antique Mexican lamps in the lobby, the main fireplace that was built of stone from an old church in Janesville, Wisconsin and the clock that stood for decades in front of the Morrison Bank in Chicago. A definite conversation piece was the hide from the last fire horse used in Rockford, on display in the downstairs recreation room.

Walt Williamson passed away on February 20, 1975 of a massive heart attack. His numerous properties were sold and in May 1976 the Pump Handle Inn was sold to Paul Baudhuin, owner of Jack's or Better, Inc. Restaurant. Baudhuin updated the facilities, but over the years and different owners the motel fell into disrepair and the majority of the complex was demolished in February 2010, the remaining part was demolished in March 2014.

Pump Handle Restaurant first anniversary advertisement from September 1958

If you have any information about the Pump Handle Restaurant or Motel such as early pictures, postcards or brochures I would love to hear from you. Please contact me at

   All Website Content Copyrighted By  © 2008-2017