The Beauty of Discovery – Lombard Street Motels Part 3

I drive the same streets every day. To work, from work. And even in a beautiful city like San Francisco, with all its natural scenery and interesting architecture, things become a blur. Like the breakfast you prepare everyday, the same face in the same clothes you’ve seen in the mirror for years, it all becomes stale to the point that you don’t remember any details at all. One day when I was caught in traffic on Lombard Street, I really looked at one of the motels and was awoken to a gem. A gem in the rough, but a gem all the same. I now look more closely at the regular streets I travel to see what other rough gems I can find.

Samesun Hotel (Now) / Lombard Motor Inn (Then) 1475 Lombard Street

I cover the whole south side of Motel Row in this post. There are fewer old buildings, including motels, on this side of the street. In the 1940s the street went through a widening project to make it part of US 101 and many of the buildings were demolished or moved. This property sits at the far east end of the row and looks more like a 1960s design. The old signage for the Lombard Motor Inn was up until recently.

Franciscan Bay Inn (Now) / Rancho Lombard Motel (Then) 1501 Lombard Street

The glass corner structure is a grand elevator shaft. It looks like an early 1990s renovation hit this place. Very budget post-modern. Great old name and color scheme. I would’ve liked to stay at “The Rancho.” 

Star Motel (Now and Then) 1727 Lombard Street

This is now student housing for a local art school chain. The neon sign is original. Strangely it always seems deserted. Even the old postcard depicts it with an almost empty parking lot. 

Surf Motel (Now and Then) 2265 Lombard Street

The Surf Motel is still an eye catcher. I’m happy that the sign, and the angled overhang to its left, are intact. If either of those elements were replaced it would not make the impression that it does.

Presidio Parkway Inn (Now) / Lanai Motel (Then) 2353 Lombard Street

The old Lanai looked like a lot of fun. They went all in on the Tiki style popular in the ’50s. Notice the Lanai Beauty Shop on the right. The existing building is being squeezed by new condo developments.

La Luna Inn (Now) / Murray’s Golden Gate Motel and Royal Motel (Then) 2555 Lombard Street

I think this property has actually improved its looks since the originals. The two old properties looked very no-nonsense, like a place bank robbers would stay while in town trying to have fun with their new found riches. A nice addition of greenery softens the presentation and the color scheme is good. 

La Luna Inn (Now) / De Ville Motel (Then) 2599 Lombard Street

Ah, the old De Ville Motel, she was a nice example of mid-century architecture. The toned down color-scheme, minimal decoration and combination of man-made and natural materials made for a nice look. No wonder MCM is so popular today. If you were a traveler in the ’50s coming off the Golden Gate Bridge in your car and you saw this, it would spark a little excitement for things to come in San Francisco.  

See you soon,

Empress Norma

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