Bluffs and Piasa Bird, 2016

The Village Motel in Highland

December 5, 2017

Last modified: February 20, 2019

Located on historic U.S. Highway 40 in Highland, The Village Motel was a common stop for travelers dating back to the 1950s. Family owned and operated, it was one of a number of motels that opened along major highways in Madison County and the United States in the years after World War II, reflecting the heightened popularity of automobile travel and services.

The motel was purchased by Wallace “Wally” Nagel (1920-2004)1 and his wife Ruth Nagel née Willmann (1923-2010)2 in 1958 for an estimated $10,000-$15,000 from Lucile and Ausby (last name unknown). When purchased, The Village Motel consisted of 7 units, but Wallace and Ruth Nagel expanded The Village Motel to 9 units in the early 1960s when they added units #3 and #4. Wallace personally handled all upgrades or repairs to reduce costs.3 All rooms were equipped with air-conditioning, a television, and a kitchenette. Ruth was the sole owner of the motel because Wallace did not want Ruth to have to leave the house to work. Wallace was often gone during the day working as an insurance salesman for Metropolitan Life Insurance Company.4

Ruth was the primary caretaker of the motel along with her three daughters, Lynn Rehberger née Nagel (1948- ), Kaye Plocher née Nagel (1950- ) and Joyce Tebbe née Nagel (1953- )5. The motel was usually at full vacancy from spring to fall, with numerous travelers passing through either for business or on vacation. Each occupant received a pitcher of ice water every night since there was no ice machine available on the premises.6

Each room consisted of either one or two double beds. The original rates were

1 Person Single Bed $4
2 Person Single Bed $6
3 Person 2 Double Beds $8
3-4 Person 2 Double Beds $10

Rates increased in the late 60s into the 70s as improvements were made to the property and to keep up with the cost of running a motel.7 Credit cards were not accepted as they were still not widely used, so cash was the only means of payment. The Nagels accepted checks when the motel first opened, but after a few bounced and income was lost, cash was all that was accepted.8 On occasion, “poor travelers” passed through Highland and found refuge at local churches. These churches paid a discounted rate for the “poor travelers” to have a room for the night. This practice eventually ceased after a number of televisions and other motel property were stolen.9

Interstate 70 was in its infancy during the 1960s and 70s, so Highway 40 was still a popular choice of travel. However, once Interstate 70 was completed and more travelers started to use the interstate system, Wallace had signs painted, much like billboards today, and posted them next to the Highland exits to advertise The Village Motel for those using the interstate. Business did not slow since there were few big hotel chains developed in the 1960s.10 Business remained steady through the 1980s, but due to Wallace’s and Ruth’s age, safety concerns of opening doors to strangers, and the difficult responsibilities required to care for a roadside motel, they decided to sell the Village Motel in 1992 to Morris and Linda Zobrist of Highland for $75,000.11 Morris and Linda Zobrist continued to run the motel for more than a decade until it was eventually sold again and tuned into efficiency apartments.12

Endnotes   [ + ]

1. Obituary of Wallace Nagel, Edwardsville Intelligencer, June 4, 2004.
2. Obituary of Ruth Nagel, National Obituary Archive.
3. Kaye Plocher, interview by Kevin Crask, July 15, 2017.
4. Ibid.
5. Lynn Rehberger, interview by Kevin Crask, July, 2017.
6. Plocher.
7. Rehberger.
8. Ibid.
9. Ibid.
10. Plocher.
11. Ibid.
12. Ibid.
Cite this article: Kevin Crask, "The Village Motel in Highland," Madison Historical: The Online Encyclopedia and Digital Archive for Madison County, Illinois, last modified February 20, 2019,
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