Along the Lincoln Highway in Iowa – Colo Motel and Niland’s Cafe; Pioneer cemetery – Rhodes, Iowa


During our adventure on the 18th annual barn tour offered by the Iowa Barn Foundation last weekend, we found some unadvertised sights including an old motel, cafe and vintage “service station” along Iowa’s stretch of the famous Lincoln Highway, the nation’s first transcontinental road for automobiles connecting the east and west coasts,  opened in 1913. (Fun fact: it was also the first national memorial to President Abraham Lincoln, predating D.C.’s Washington Memorial by several years.)

The  plain white Colo Motel  looks pretty basic. Rooms run about $50 a night. The Niland’s Cafe looks like it has been restored or redone in a nostalgic vein, complete with a sign outside advertising “hot coffee and Kool cigarettes.”  It was closed when we arrived (open until 2 p.m. on Sundays) but we peaked inside through the windows and it looks like a time capsule. Word has it the food is pretty good. I’d like to return.

The restored 1940’s era “service station”  definitely is no longer functional. The pumps are vintage fire-engine red contraptions and the gas costs 17 and 8/10ths cents a gallon, including tax. One of the explanatory plaques placed around the crossroads let us know that Reed’s Standard Service Station operated from the 1930’s until 1967. It replaced an earlier station nearby opened in the late 1920’s. The station’s design includes a flared roof line, large canopy and other features linked to the Arts and Crafts design movement of the early 20th century.

We also happened upon a tiny pioneer cemetery on the edge of the road, near the town of Rhodes, surrounded by what appeared to be a fledgling Christmas tree farm. Some of the grey/white marble stones were so worn, we couldn’t make out the engraving. But several mentioned pioneers from the 1860’s, including one that read “1869 Still born dau”…which I presume was a still born daughter.

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