An update on this snowflake-shaped architectural wonder is on claass HAUS today.
Several months ago, I posted a look at the Snow Flake Motel, an often misidentified and now demolished roadside inn. Recently, I came across the building's National Register of Historic Places nomination as well as several more photographs taken by John Margolies in 1991 that offer further insight into the history of this architectural oddity.
A Midwestern marvel, the Snow Flake Motel, sometimes misattributed to Frank Lloyd Wright, once stood along a quiet stretch of road near St. Joseph, Michigan, a sleepy resort town less than two hours east of Chicago. In 1958, local businessman Sahag Sarkisian commissioned Wright's Taliesin Fellowship (later Taliesin Associated Architects) to design a luxury roadside hotel (apparently he got the idea to contact Wright from Carl Schultz, a close friend who lived in a home designed by the architect). Designed by William Wesley Peters, Wright’s son-in-law and protégé, the uniquely shaped motel epitomized modern hospitality, offering ice makers and color TVs in each room and a lounge called “The Flake” that served sophisticated cocktails to groups of well-heeled tourists.
Opened to the public in 1962, the motel complex resembled an abstracted snowflake comprised of six units (5 v-shaped and 1 y-shaped) arranged around a central courtyard. Covered by a sawtoothed metal roof, the concrete block sections were connected by an open metal canopy of interlocking hexagons. The canopy covered a paved surface that continued around the building, uniting the complex and creating individual patio spaces for guests. A large, heated pool crowned by a geodesic dome-like structure (never completed) stood as the centerpiece of the motel, while a wide expanse of interior green space supplied each room with access to the thoughtfully landscaped courtyard. The motel office extended outward from the building in continuation of the garden's linear arrangement of water features.
During the 1960s, the 57-room motel found success as a steady stream of guests sought comfortable rooms, modern amenities, and memorable architectural spaces. But business didn’t last, and Sarkisian sold the Snow Flake in 1979 to William and Carlene Lymburner, who worked to restore the motel before selling it in 1986. Ten years later, the Snow Flake began operating as the St. Joseph Inn, catering to long-term residents. In 2006, despite its listing on the National Register of Historic Places, the Snow Flake was demolished.
Like many roadside motels from the period, the Snow Flake's demise is not surprising. The interstate highway system and the growth of major hotel chains left many small motels struggling or neglected in the latter decades of the twentieth century. Even its association with Wright (it remains unclear if the architect offered any input on the' design, but owners did use his name on signage) couldn't save the motel from eventual deterioration. Today only a vaguely hexagonal form remains on the vacant lot along St. Joseph's Red Arrow Highway, a quiet reminder of a past highway highlight.
Image at top: eBay.com
This architectural historian cannot stop thinking about buildings, food, and that vintage rug she found online.