Saturday, June 14, 2014

Econo Lodge, Texas Avenue

Taken in December 2015 by author.

An Econo Lodge today with an unremarkable stucco exterior, though I believe the hotel originally looked closer to what the former Waco Texian Inn looked like, it is, shall we say, one of College Station's less glamorous hotels (to put it nicely).

For many years the hotel at 104 Texas Avenue South had a bit of charm with its non-native evergreen trees, but the reviews indicate that it's a dark, dank, nasty place that's rarely cleaned (or cleaned poorly), and in a bad neighborhood. This wasn't an entirely unfounded accusation for that last one, because of its proximity to the scruffy apartments behind it, it put up a row of chain link fence blocking access from Meadowland Street (thankfully, aforementioned scruffy "Meadowlands Apartments" seem to be mostly cleared out...mostly). In the early 2000s (up to 2005, looks like), it was Kiva Inn and before that, a Comfort Inn (note that the name had been there before they built the Comfort Suites further down University), and before that, the Texian Inn. Texian Inn opened in 1984 according to both Brazos CAD and phone books.

To better explain it (taken from the "City Directories" page of my main website, Carbon-izer, which itself is from old directories and phone books), here is what the hotel has been over the years.

1984: Texian Inn (according to phone book, "open fall 1984 in Bryan")
1989: Comfort Inn
1993: Comfort Inn
1999: Comfort Inn
2005: Kiva Inn
2007: Knights Inn
2014: Knights Inn
2015: Econo Lodge (rebranded early this year?) 

When it became a Econo Lodge in early 2015, trees were removed and the reviews ended up becoming even worse. But there is a bit of history behind this one, of course. Where the motel now operates operates was once a mini-golf course (and a decent one at that, from what I heard, including the near-ubiquitous windmill). This was the Turf Green Miniature Golf Course (120 Texas Avenue). Turf Green (built in the early 1960s) that sadly I don't have a lot of information on but west of that (behind it) was an even more obscure "Western theme park" behind it, Jubilee Junction, opened by Marion Pugh himself. This opened in 1967 but it closed just about one year later in 1968, briefly home to a campaign rally for Texas governor hopeful Paul Eggers in 1970 and a few other events. Jubilee Junction had some 21 structures and featured a variety of displays (including live birds and animals), places to buy food & drink (such as soft drinks at a salvaged saloon bar) and some authentic pieces scattered around the village (Keeny TX's old post office). You could get a souvenir artisan horseshoe from the blacksmith, ride in a covered wagon around the village, or watch a mock gunfight, staged twice a day.

While it certainly sounded unique and interesting, it does sound like the model was flawed, and not enough a big enough trade area to keep it going year after year. That's not an uncommon fate among these types of things, and bigger failures have happened since (like AutoWorld in Michigan). Anyway, Jubilee Junction ultimately turned out to be a bust. By the end of the 1970s, it was completely gone.

Picture courtesy John Ellisor. Used with permission.

UPDATE 10-27-2020: Added new list of hotels over the years to make a bit easier to understand.
UPDATE 05-10-2024: Between 2021 and 2022 the motel went back to being a Knights Inn but with its new logo and corporate ownership. Removed Editor's Note that mentioned that it was an old post that was redone in 2019.