Posted by: Brad Nixon | August 31, 2010

The Secret of the Invisible Motel

No, that’s not the title of a new Hardy Boys mystery. I haven’t posted any new issues of the series, “PCH Travel Palaces” for some time, so here’s an unusual one with a whiff of the unknown about it. (You can see other entries in the series by selecting “PCH Travel Palaces” from the “Categories” widget at the top of the right-hand column.)

After 10 years of driving the same familiar stretch of the Pacific Coast Highway (PCH), and taking note of what I thought was every survivor from the grand era of America’s mid-century romance with the automobile, I was shocked this week to notice something that had never caught my eye. A low-slung building on the north side of the street, now a sign-painting business had a parking lot surrounded by six single-story residences (click on images to enlarge them).

There was a signpost in the center of the frontage, and another near the office building, there was a little green stretch in the middle of the parking area that suggested a long-ago U-shaped motel driveway: a classic roadside motor court configuration. To my eye, this is a onetime motor court, long ago converted to residences and retail. It will take some work to determine the name of that long-ago motel, but it’s almost certainly what it once was. For now, it’s The Mystery Motor Inn.

That stonework on the office building is a local product, known as “PV Stone” (for “Palos Verdes”), and is quarried almost directly across the street from here.

I was probably sensitized to its presence because The Counselor and I ran an errand that took us far to the south on PCH just that day, well into Long Beach. There are at least a score of other surviving motels still in operation in that stretch that I’ve never photographed, and who knows how many others lurking beneath the surface of residences, auto repair shops or taquerias. We’ll find them.

You should be able to view more photos of this mystery location and other PCH Travel Palaces on Flickr at

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