Cover image courtesy Jim Seelen Motel Images Collection
In 1955, Albert Pick, Jr., President of Pick Hotel Corporation built a Holiday Inn at 4404 E. State Street in Rockford, Illinois, as part of a deal he had made with the fledgling motel franchise. Pick had taken over his father’s restaurant and hotel supply company during the Great Depression and started focusing on the hotel part of the business soon after. By the time he started building the Rockford Holiday Inn, Pick had already built 22 hotels in 20 major cities across the country, five of which were other Holiday Inns. Before he opened his Rockford motel, however, Pick had a falling out with “America’s Innkeeper”.
Living on the Edge
At the Holiday Inn franchises operated by Pick Hotel Corporation, guests were being recommended to stay at other Pick hotels. As a result, the corporate headquarters of Holiday Inn ruled that those who owned and operated other hotel brands could not franchise a Holiday Inn.
This ruling infuriated Pick, and even though it was already constructed as a Holiday Inn and ready for opening, at the last minute he changed the name of the motel to the Edge-O-Town Motel. (After all, the motel was built on what was then the edge of town where just a few hundred feet away, the paved roads of Rockford gave way to dirt roads and farmlands.) He even went so far as to keep the “Great Sign” that was already built, replacing “Holiday Inn” with “Edge-O’-Town Motel”, but keeping the color scheme.
The Edge-O’-Town Motel featured “62 luxurious rooms with baths; completely air-conditioned and heated.” Amenities included a radio, television, and telephone in each room and “convenient car-to-door” parking. By 1956, guests could also get breakfast, lunch and dinner at the nearby Edge-O’-Town Restaurant, also owned and operated by Pick.
Business “Picks” Up
As his Holiday Inn contracts started to expire by the late 1950s, Albert Pick started changing the names of his hotels to disassociate himself from Kemmons Wilson’s franchises as much as possible. In 1961 he changed the name of the Edge-O’-Town Motel to the Albert Pick Motel.
Like its predecessor, the Albert Pick Motel offered its guests all of the modern amenities of the time: air-conditioning, telephones, and though the radios were now gone, each room had a television. Now, though, it even had a swimming pool, and much like Holiday Inns, children under 12 stayed free. What’s more, because it was the “business and booze” era, they even added a cocktail lounge and “ideal meeting facilities”.
In 1968 the Edge-O’-Town Restaurant was leased out and its name changed to the Sabre & Saddle Restaurant which ran from 1968 to 1972. In 1972, Ray Clark bought the building and opened up the popular Polynesian-themed Kai Tiki Restaurant, owning and operating it until 1980. Soon after, the restaurant became part of the Godfather’s Pizza franchise and was eventually sold and demolished as part of the neighboring Anderson’s Rock River Block car dealership expansion.
Pick Out, Alpine Inn
After suffering a minor stroke in 1971 and another in 1972, Pick would finally sell his business to the Bass Brothers of Texas in 1976. He would die of a heart attack the next year.
In the meantime, the Albert Pick Motel in Rockford would have a name change once again, this time to the Alpine Inn. Unfortunately, like many mid-century modern motels the motel would seem dated and as more and more road weary guests preferred the more convenient franchise motels along the interstates, the Alpine Inn soon became known for being a seedy shell of its former self.
The Alpine Inn Today
Tom Baudhuin bought the Alpine Inn in 2008. By then it had fallen into disrepair and became a haven only for prostitutes and drug dealers. Still, Baudhuin believed he could turn the old motel around.
By 2016, a major renovation had taken place which included a new blacktop parking lot; a new roof; new furnishings, beds and TVs in each guest room; and an overhaul of the lobby and breakfast area to resemble a French country inn. To discourage crime in and around the motel, several security cameras were also added as part of the renovation.
Indeed, the Alpine Inn had become an anchor for the Miracle Mile Rockford Corporation – a grassroots organization started in 2005 with the goal of renewing the business climate of East State Street between Alpine Road and Fairview Boulevard.
Today, instead of call girls and addicts, the motel serves a different variety of guest – out-of-town workers for local business like Sundstrand and Woodward and even Rockford University. Still other guests include athletes who come to Rockford for sports tournaments. Sometimes it’s even guests who are moving to the city to work and live and need a temporary place to stay until their apartment is ready.
Although no longer exactly on the edge of town, the Alpine Inn also still caters to the road-weary traveler passing through Rockford. So, if that sounds like you on your next journey through this part of Illinois, why not visit their website here for more information on how you can stay a night or two at the Alpine Inn?
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