Secret Treasure in Hazel Dell, WA
I have always loved motels. When I was little, they were part of vacations with my beloved grandparents, where we had so much fun, and usually got those little boxes of cereal.
As a teenager, there were several motels in the Portland area that allowed us to drink and party with our friends. That kind of escape was my favorite thing to do in those days.
Throughout my painting life, motels have found their way into many of my paintings. Not only because I love the look of them, but they carry so much emotion, potential and remembering for me.
So I am always looking....
I drive on I-5 between Tacoma and Portland often, and I have often noticed a great mid-century motel in Hazel Dell, WA. (you can see it from the freeway - it's on the east side). Several weeks ago, I noticed it was boarded up, which inspired me to pull off the freeway to take some photos. I decided to drive around the back, to get a look at the side.
The access was a strange open driveway with big signs and arrows to lead you around the corner to the now boarded up Value Motel.
It was in this weird open driveway that I discovered this sign hidden under a tree. It was a secret treasure that I had discovered. It is so beautiful, and I felt like I was led to it. It was kind of a miracle!
These types of mysterious empty spaces and events really fire my imagination, and get my creativity going. I think it is because I know that there must have been something else there before. But what?
I keep going back to visit my sign under the big tree. Despite being right between I-5 and old Hwy 99, it is a peaceful place - like a cemetery. Plus there are a bunch of rabbits there, which makes it a little more magical.
Because of the internet, I was able to find out more about the Red Top Lodge Motel. And I even was able to buy 2 postcards from a dealer in Montreal. Here are the postcards:
One looks like it is from the 50's, way before I-5 ran past it, and the other looks like it is from the 60' possibly when I-5 was still being built.
All that is left of the old Red Top Lodge Motel is the old battered sign ( which was moved to make room for the newer, larger signs), some trees and the curbs.
Maybe the next incarnation of the Museum of Bad Judgement will be all about the Red Top Lodge Motel, and what happened there.
By coincidence (but are there really any coincidences?) - in recent days, two different friends shared an article with me titled Photographer Updates Postcards Of 1960s Resorts Into Their Abandoned Ruins, without knowing that I had recently been spending time at the grave of an old forgotten motel. Its a beautiful and fascinating article. Click here or in on the title to link to it.
There is so much all around me that cuts right through all the noise, and inspires and transfixes me. I just have to keep my eyes and my heart open.
You can visit the old sign and the weird empty space where the Red Top Lodge Motel once stood too. Just look for the tall motel sign, east of I-5, a couple miles north of Vancouver, WA.