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Dec 2002 / the ordinary eye :: email this story to a friend

Making Time at the No-Tell Motel
By Bill Boll and Shellee Graham

During its 54 years of existence, the Coral Court Motel enjoyed a legendary status unrivalled in the annals of motor lodge lore. Icon of architectural styling, symbol of carnal sin, shrine for pop-culture historians... and a magnet for more rumor, myth and mystery than any other site in St. Louis! But how did the Coral Court acquire its unique status? And why does it mean so many things to so many people? In short, just what is this strange fascination we still seem to have for those quirky, shaded bungalows that once stood at 7755 Watson Road?

Using archival footage, interviews, stills and narration, we will try to answer these questions in our upcoming documentary on the Coral Court. Funded by a CALOP grant, the 30-minute video will trace the history of the defunct motel and examine its impact on our city. We are actively seeking photos, home movies and recollections of the Coral Court, and would love to hear from anyone interested in sharing the same. Contact us at: or

In the meantime, take a walk down memory lane with the photos below.

[Click on a thumbnail image to view the large version.]

This was just found in a box of junk at an estate sale. My friend Joe found it for me. I was so excited when he emailed this image to me. It's the very first photograph I have ever seen of the original Coral Court sign. This dates back to about 1950.
This photo is from 1955 when the Harrisons went on a family vacation from Lebanon, Missouri to St. Louis. They went to the zoo and the St. Louis Cardinals baseball game and stayed at Coral Court. This was quite a common thing to do for tourist families. The Coral Court was a very nice place to stay and was often booked months in advance.
This was my very first photograph that I shot at Coral Court. It was 1986 and I had just arrived in St. Louis. I was afraid to walk the motel grounds — worried that some manager would throw me off the property or that I would be threatened by a customer. But that never happened. I like this shot because it's a little spooky with that "OT" burned out.
The famous private garages of a 1946 Coral Court cottage
Another view of the garages
Glass blocks
I always call this 1991 photo "the postcard shot" because it was used on my very first postcard image with William Stage. I think it's a good image, as it shows the original stone wall with the ENTRANCE neon, streamline moderne architecture on the office building and that distinctive pink neon sign.
Just the CCM sign in the trees
Did you know that the address of the CCM was 7755 Watson Road, which was located on old U.S. Route 66, which was bypassed for Interstate 44? Yes, it's a field day for numerologists.
A still life of CCM memorabilia
This photograph was taken in 1995, just before demolition by Spirtas Wrecking, which was responsible for the 66 Park-In Theatre, the Arena, etc. It took six weeks or 45 working days for the razing of Coral Court. At first I was appalled by this sign and then I figured at least they were paying homage to the motel. They didn't have to put up a sign like that; they could have just wrecked the place and gone home. So now I am happy I took the time to photograph the Spirtas sign with the red check mark.
This is a sad image. It shows a pile of rubble that used to be the Coral Court main office building (taken near Watson Road). This was photographed on June 11, 1995 — very sad.

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