Craig’s Auto Court

Craig's Auto Court

Craig’s Auto Court, 9449 SW Barbur Blvd., CA 1940.

Craig’s Auto Court operated at 9449 SW Barbur Boulevard from 1937 to 1943, when it became the Ara Vista Motel. A Wendy’s occupies the site today.

Soon after its opening in 1933, Barbur Boulevard between SW Terwilliger Boulevard and Tigard sprouted dozens of businesses devoted to serving automobile travelers. Service stations, restaurants and motels lined this stretch of the new West Side Pacific Highway.

Motels, or auto courts, as they were first called, were built away from the city center, unlike hotels. They offered the automobile traveler quiet and inexpensive lodging in the countryside. What is now far southwest Portland was sparsely populated until the 1960s, consisting mostly of small farms and woodlands. This area was outside Portland city limits until the 1950s. It is no coincidence that Barbur Boulevard’s motel row started where the city ended. Outside the city limits meant outside the reach of city bureaucrats and freedom from the various licensing and operating fees they levied on hotel and motel operators and lodgers.

The motels were popular for another reason. Outside city limits meant away from nosy neighbors, prying landladies, and sometimes husbands and wives.

In 1961 the section of Interstate 5 between Tigard and Downtown Portland was completed, bypassing Barbur Boulevard and its motel row. During the 1960s new, modern motels were being built closer to the downtown core. Many downtown hotels now offered off street parking. Barbur Boulevard’s motel row, once out in the country, was absorbed by suburbia. The decline was rapid. By the 1970s what had once been first class tourist accommodations were now third rate lodgings. Rooms once rented by the night were now rented by the week or by the hour.

In the 1950s there were nineteen motels on Barbur Boulevard between Bertha Boulevard and Tigard advertising in the Yellow Pages, today there are only three operating motels from Barbur Boulevard’s motel row: Budget Lodge (formerly Coucher’s Auto Court, Allen’s Auto Court, Frontier Motel, and King’s Row West Motel), Capitol Hill Motel, and Ranch Inn (originally Antler Motel).

The former Welcome Motel, Crestwood Motel, and Breeze Hill Motel are intact as apartments.

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