Kenneth Setzer

Miami Love Motels along the Tamiami Trail of Tears

I would like to thank my fellow blogger at http://forkinmyeye.com/ for inspiring this post. Check out this one in particular for some better photos of old signs.

I’ve long been fascinated by the string of hourly accommodations lining either side of Miami’s 8th Street. Their tackiness and attempts to lure horny couples (or more?) to get together for an hour or two of sweaty privacy produces some great signage and verbiage. The bilingual (more like strictly Spanish) nature of this part of 8th Street (aka Calle Ocho) usually adds to the campiness.

The Tamiami Trail is another name for 8th Street, meaning “Tampa-Miami,” since in the early 20th Century it was the main thoroughfare across the southern part of the state, eventually connecting to routes north and Tampa.

Jamaica Motel — Note the Cool Arrow Sign at the Lower Right

In the heyday of Miami’s life as a tourist hotspot, 8th Street was a major conduit for traffic. I can image the big old beautiful ’40s, ’50s and ’60s steel sleds filled with families on vacation. That naturally creates a need for food, entertainment, and lodging. Like a tropical version of Route 66, the Tamiami Trail met travelers’ needs. I can only imagine that accessible airfare, more exotic destinations, and a bad economy led to the downfall of 8th Street as a main artery for tourism.

The motels, however, endured. Some did anyway, by adapting. Instead of appealing to families on a road trip, they catered to those looking for a short, private tryst.

Stardust Motel. A Modern Building with a Retro Sign.

Some retain their cute “cottage” look, while others have been modernized to withstand hurricanes, though old signage remains. When I first took some shots of these clandestine establishments, I used my first digital camera (a Sony Mavica FD 83 with diskette memory). I was NOT a welcome sight. One guy came out of a motel and asked what I was doing. I stammered something like “oh I like the colors. ha ha.” Undoubtedly he thought I was investigating cheating couples!

These photos were taken more recently, from my car! There are definitely more out there that I need to photograph before they’re gone.

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