As part of a series on the influential, colorful, historic people, places and things along Illinois Route 66, we present…
The Wishing Well Motel, La Grange, Illinois
Route 66 Association of Illinois Hall of Fame Class of 2003
Gone, but not forgotten.
Here’s the story behind this historic landmark:
Sadly, sometimes our valued Hall of Fame inductees become lost to time. The Wishing Well Motel is one of those iconic places that no longer exists. But its history is worth preserving. This fixture of La Grange, Illinois was in operation from 1941 – 2007 – coincidentally, 66 years of serving travelers.
The Wishing Well Motel was conveniently located only 15 miles from the Chicago Loop on Historic Route 66 at Joliet Road and Brainard Avenue in La Grange, IL. You could see the Sears Tower from in front of the motel without paying Chicago lodging rates. Across the street was a forest preserve for walking and bicycling.
Built in 1941, the Wishing Well had only three owners during its lifetime. The original owners were the Blackburns, followed by the Bronson family. In 1958, father and son, Charles and Emil Vidas and their wives purchased the motel. When Mr and Mrs Emil Vidas and Charles had passed, Charles’s Wife Zora took over. Zora singlehandedly ran the motel from 1958 and raised her children while continuing to further her education.
Originally, the Wishing Well properties consisted of 10 cabins, an office and a small house located behind the cabins. The facilities went through a number of renovations throughout the years.
The Wishing Well had served as a comforting home away from home for many famous people who wanted quiet and anonymity away from the hustle and bustle of the big city. Entertainers, business people, and other celebrities would make the Wishing Well their home as they would perform in nearby Chicago. Probably the most famous people to stay there were Guy Lombardo, Tex Beneke and the rock band Chicago. Mrs Vidas is quoted as saying in an interview, “When I saw those kids (Chicago’s band members) with that long hair I almost didn’t rent a room to them, they scared me!” Movie star Dale Robertson entered her lobby looking for a safe haven one hectic day but she was so busy, she sent him away, not wanting to be bothered. Later she learned from the manager of the hotel where Mr Robertson ended up and was surprised to learn she’d turned away a star!
Charming stories from the Wishing Well abound. A couple who honeymooned at the motel returned to celebrate their 40th anniversary, thrilled to find the place in operation. Why didn’t Zora sell the property and retire once her sons were grown? She said, “I’ll never retire; where else in this world can I meet so many wonderful and exciting people reliving their past and searching for a future every day of my life?”
The Wishing Well’s sign and wishing well were donated from Zora’s two sons after she passed away from breast cancer. At the time, association member Joe Gniadak was told that, “The Route 66 Association of Illinois made their mom so happy when we inducted the Wishing Well into the Hall of Fame, they thought it was only right that we receive the sign.” The motel was torn down on November 12, 2007, three years after its Hall of Fame induction.