When construction started on the Motel 71 in June, 1948, it was a state-of-the-art building, the very model of a modern “auto court.”
This past week, the local landmark for the past 63 years was demolished to make room for a medical supply business.
A local landmark for the past 63 years was demolished last week. When construction started on the Motel 71 in June, 1948, it was a state-of-the-art building, the very model of a modern “auto court.” Motel 71 was created alongside Highway 19/71 by Dick and Hazel Dirlam, who designed it with all the latest 1948 conveniences and safety features. Originally the 15-unit hotel included just two wings: the 135-foot wing running parallel to the highway, and the 110-foot wing jutting off at an angle to the north. The western wing was added later. Each suite was 12 by 18 feet, with partitions of steel insulated with “rock wool” to make them as soundproof as possible. The cement floors were inlaid with copper tubes to provide radiant heat from a central hot water system, state of the art for 1949. To celebrate the grand opening, the Dirlams held an open house on April 13-14, welcoming the public to inspect “southern Minnesota’s newest and finest auto court.” The advertisement for the open house says, “Ultra modern in every respect . . . with the new Radiant Panel Heating . . . Tiled Bath Room in every one of the 15 units . . . Constructed throughout with steel to be completely fireproof and Luxuriously Furnished.” Many local residents took rooms out of curiosity that first night. On April 13, the hotel was filled to capacity, two days before its official opening. The April 12, 1949 Redwood Gazette featured a full-page ad, with the various contractors offering their congratulations to the Dirlams. Among the companies that contributed were: • Fisher’s Coast-to-Coast store, which supplied the plumbing and plastic wall tile, • Redwood Ready-Mix Concrete Co. • Engelen Steel Co., which supplied the steel framing. • Wolff’s Refrigeration Service and Electrical Contracting. • Hanson Block and Tile • Byram Construction Co. • Citizens State Bank of Redwood Falls • Hylland Lumber Co. • Botsford Lumber Co. In addition, Redwood Falls Farmers Lumber and Coal used its wood shop to create some of the original room fixtures. (Interestingly, the Motel 71 opened just a week after the new, $20,000 VFW hall opened its doors across the street.) Over the years the Motel 71 saw several different owners, and gradually fell into disrepair. Earlier this year, the Motel 71 site was bought by Rice Hospital in Willmar, who will use it to build a new medical supply store for southwest Minnesota. “The location on the highway in Redwood Falls is great for our needs,” said Sue Schlagel, of Rice Hospital last week. Schlagel said Rice Home Medical is still considering architects’ designs for a 7,000 square foot store to be built on the lot in the next few months, although no deadline has been set in stone yet.