Casa Motel and Duluth Motel History

In a vein somewhat similar to the Ye Olde Corner Grocery post, I recently saw that the Casa Motel is for sale. That shoebox-looking motel has been a curiosity since I was a kid. It had a certain “stigma” about it, but I’ve always wondered, why there? What made someone build a motel there, in 1965?

Now there are some former hotels and motels in Duluth that would be considered odd today, but these curiosities were built during a much older era, where it really wasn’t all that weird. However, since then they’ve either been converted for other use or torn down, yet the Casa remained. I mean just up the hill Buena Vista is no more, and that had one hell of a view, what did Casa offer? It appears that it could continue on as a motel, even if sold. I’ve noticed they removed the Coke add on top of their sign, too.

Speaking of those other curiosities, does anyone else know of any other still standing buildings around town that used to be a hotel/motel? I know a few myself, like the Cascade and just across the street the Arrowhead.



about 6 years ago

I vaguely remember hearing about a prostitution bust there when I was a kid, maybe in the late 1970s or early '80s?


about 6 years ago

That's probably in part where the "stigma" came from. I have to laugh when I wonder if Casa came up under any of the hotel booking websites.

Possible fun fact: I know Casa means cottage/house in Spanish, I recognize it from the phrase "mi casa es su casa," (my house is your house). Whether the motel's name has any actual relation to the word or phrase is unknown.


about 6 years ago

Some family:

Betty Lou Swor

Betty Lou Swor, 74, died on June 18, 2005 in St. Luke's Hospital. 

She was born the daughter of Roy and Geraldine (Cummings) Ekholm on May 13, 1931 in Sioux City, Iowa. 

Betty was a graduate of Duluth Central High School and in later years, attended St. Scholastica and Lake Superior College. She was a past member of the Eastern Star. 

Betty Lou owned and operated her own restaurant, Russell's Cafe in the early 1960s. She helped operate the family business, the Casa Motel with her husband, George. Betty was also a senior companion for many years.

Betty was preceded in death by her son, Gregory Paul in 1973. 

She is survived by her husband and companion, George; a sister, Donna (Daniel) Delessio of Tucson, Ariz.; three sons, Steven (Mary) of St. Paul, Bob (Lynnette) and Gary (Marge) both of Duluth; 10 grandchildren, John (Tracy), Rob (Jen), Christian, Thaddeus, Ryan, Genny, Emily, Stacy, Melissa and Carrie; three great-grandchildren (her sunshine and reason for surviving with the pain she endured for so many years) Jade, Nicholas and Jamie. 

A devoted mother, grandmother and great-grandmother, dearly loved by her family, her kindness, caring, cheerful smile and beautiful bright blue eyes, will forever be treasured and sadly missed.

Barrett Chase

about 6 years ago

There are a few in West Duluth.


The West Duluth Hotel existed on the second floor of the building that now houses Gannucci's Italian Market. I'm uncertain whether it still operates under that name, or if it's simply apartment rental units now. Maybe someone with insight or with access to some official records can clarify that. 


This nameless former motel stands at about 79th Avenue West and Grand Avenue. Once again, I'm unfamiliar with its history, but it seems to operate as apartment units now.

Barrett Chase

about 6 years ago

I should also mention that there are several independent motels that still operate in West Duluth. The Grand Motel, the Willard Munger Inn, and the Allyndale Motel come immediately to mind. There are also several in Superior, especially at the edge of town on Highways 2 and 53.

Tony D.

about 6 years ago

Barrett, before it was a motel, and long before it was Gannucci's, that building in the first photograph you posted was the Graham Hospital, built in 1909 by Dr. David Graham, the same gent who examined Irene Tusken in 1920 and determined that she had not been raped (Duluthians lynched three men anyway). It was built on the site of the Traphagen Block, which burned in 1908 (and in which the hospital was then located; can you guess who that building's architect was?) You can read about it and other lost hospitals of West Duluth on Zenith City Online: http://zenithcity.com/the-many-hospitals-of-west-duluth/

Barrett Chase

about 6 years ago

Tony, that's incredibly interesting! I didn't know about West Duluth hospitals. My grandfather often told me the story about how he had appendicitis as a child and had to ride to the hospital in a "hack," (think horse-drawn taxi) circa 1914. I always imagined a horrific ride to St. Luke's, but I guess it was much more likely that it was just a few blocks to one of the West Duluth hospitals.


about 6 years ago

I seem to remember that one out on 79th and Grand having a sign that said Snowflake Motel many years ago.

There's also the Cody Inn.

Barrett Chase

about 6 years ago

Ah yes, the Cody Inn. The Cody Inn was part of the discussion under this Where in Duluth? post. It's now the Cody Inn Apartments, but before that it was the Cody Inn Motel, and before that it was the Tru Vu Motel.

Barrett Chase

about 6 years ago

The Duluth Motel used to be on the 4400 block of Grand Ave, but that property is currently a parking lot for Denfeld High School.

Barrett Chase

about 6 years ago

Here are some postcards from defunct motels courtesy of Tony D. of Zenith City Online.

The first two are of the aforementioned Duluth Motel (which claimed to be the "Northwest's Most Luxurious Motel"):



There's the Abrahamson Motel (whereabouts unknown):


The Star Lite Motel, which was on Commonwealth and Stowe Street in Gary. It's since been converted into apartments. I think the sign might still be there, though.


The Lake Aire Motel. You can probably guess where this was. 



about 6 years ago

Does anybody have any info on the Lake Motel on London Road? I believe I stayed there in the early 1980s. The Viking Motel was another. I've been searching for a Lake Motel postcard in area shops. The Lake Aire was another that is more well known.

Barrett Chase

about 6 years ago

The building on West Superior Street that now houses Mike's Western Café (and formerly the Western Tavern and the Spot Bar) was once the Western Hotel.

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