September 1995: Spirtas Demolition placed one of their trademark signs on the site as they demolished the historic motel.
The Coral Court Motel
Happily, many St. Louis residents are aware of the history in their midst. Shortly before the demolition, a group of determined preservationists dismantled an entire unit of the motel by hand for future reconstruction elsewhere. The unit is currently in storage at the Transportation Musuem; all that's lacking is a site for reassembling it. And in another fitting tribute, Coral Court fan Shellee Graham has published a thorough and informative volume about the classic motel, "Tales from the Coral Court" (including a quote from this very web site.)
The motel's demolition was lamented by musician Jay Farrarr, of the bands Uncle Tupelo and Son Volt, in the Son Volt song "Way Down Watson".
As for myself, I randomly discovered the Coral Court in the spring of 1994 as I was out for a long bike ride through the southern reaches of the city. A year later, I came back and got some more photos; I was puzzled by the fact that the glass block had been torn out of some of the units (to allow interior demolition), but didn't really think anything of it. Surely they wouldn't tear down such a bizarre and unusual set of buildings, right?
What can I say? I was much younger then.
I biked around the complex, shot the half dozen photos you see here, poked around inside one of the units, and went on my way. When I came back in September 1995, the place was gone -- nothing left but rubble. To this day, I'm still kicking myself for not taking several rolls of photos. It taught me a lesson about preservation I've never forgotten: you'll never regret taking a photograph, and you'll always regret not taking one.
Coral Court Motel - author Shellee Graham's tribute site
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