Road Trips, Drug Deals, and Magic Fingers Beds: Chicago History of Lincoln Avenue's Motel Row

History of Chicago Motels: Lincoln Avenue

The fond memories of our grandparents can probably recall a family road trip in the midwest heat driven without seatbelts or air conditioning, while their dad may have been trying to fold the map, smoke a cigarette, and pay attention to the road. It gives a whole new meaning to the term "distracted driving." A stretch of north lincoln avenue (northwest of Lincoln Square, west of Bowmanville, South of Skokie, and North of North Center), also known as lincoln avenue's motel row, many of the original independent motels still remain (even 70 years after the golden age of motels), but you won't see as many neon signs anymore.

Why are there so many motels located on Lincoln Avenue's motel row?

Lincoln avenue between Skokie and Foster Avenue overlaps with a once popular interstate system with Highway 41. As the interstate highways improved (Edens Expressway opened in 1951),the motel properties along Lincoln Avenue's Motel row began to suffer, however some of the remaining hotels continue to operate.

Are we there yet?

Large neon signs would greet weary travelers along Lincoln Avenue's motel row to indicate they were almost to Chicago. Before the days of internet reservations, the budget motels would proudly display their amenities like magic fingers beds, free parking, patio motel, spa motel, rooms for rent, or any other amenity to lure them away from another lincoln ave motel.

What is current status of Lincoln Avenue Motel Row?

As the interstate highway system improved, the motels were left to languish.  The two mile stretch of Lincoln Ave between Foster and Peterson once had 14 motels, but only nine of the motels remain.  Many of the properties that remained on Lincoln Avenue Motel row would be associated with drugs, prostitution, or places where you wouldn't want a family member to stay.  By 2000, Mayor Daley and Alderman O"connor helped demolish the following three motels replaced them with a police station, park, and public library; 

  1. Acres Motel (Closed) 5600 North Lincoln Avenue Chicago IL 60645

  2. Riverside Motel (Closed) 6060 North Lincoln Ave Chicago IL 60659

  3. Spa Motel (Closed) 5414 North Lincoln Avenue Chicago IL 60625

Does Lincoln Avenue's Motel Row Still have Motels in Operation?

Yes, there are currently a few motels still in operation along the infamous lincoln avenue's motel row.  

Summit Motel

5308 N Lincoln Avenue Chicago Il 60625

The Diplomat

5230 North Lincoln Avenue Chicago Il 60625

Apache Motel

5535 N Lincoln Chicago Il 60625

Guest House Motel

2600 West Bryn Mawr Chicago Il 60659

Rodeway Inn 

5952 North Lincoln Avenue

Chicago IL 606659

What is a "Magic Fingers" Bed

The Magic Fingers bed gained popularity in the late 1960's with over 250,000 installations in motels and hotels across the united states. The bed offered a vibrating mattress which was typically coin operated in increments of 15 minutes. While the fad quickly ended, magic fingers beds have made quite an impression on pop culture and featured in many films and movies during the 1970's-1980's.

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