York Town Square

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Landmark Modernaire Motel built in Lincoln Highway’s heyday

The Modernaire Motel, built in 1949 to serve Lincoln Highway motorists before the Route 30 by-pass went in, sits at a prime spot on East Market Street at Mount Zion Road. Patrons used to enter the motel, according to Lincoln Highway expert Brian Butko, on the art deco building’s rounded corner. But later, the entrance was moved to the side. Background posts: York County … ‘A smorgasbord of architectural styles’ and Coca-Cola out in Springetts… self-storage space is real thing and Change flattens Stony Brook’s drive-in, humpback bridge.
Richard E. Zimmerman Sr. was a war hero and banker, well known around town.
And his recent death reminded York County folks of how he was best known – as longtime owner of the Modernaire Motel on East Market Street.
York Daily Record/Sunday News writer Mike Argento noted (4/10/09) that Zimmerman’s stint in banking including time as manager of the Round Bank, now M & T’s Queensgate branch.
Zimmerman left banking in 1966 to take over the round-sided Modernaire.
He thought it would be interesting, Argento wrote.
Argento told about one such interesting incident:

Brian Butko’s book on the Lincoln Highway in Pennsylvania is available by clicking here.

Once, Vera (Zimmerman’s wife) — everybody called her “Sis” — found a nightie in one of the rooms formerly occupied by one of the regulars. She thought she’d do a good deed and send it to the salesman. It was a good deed, though it turned out differently than Sis had expected. The salesman’s wife called the motel and said she had never stayed there and she had no idea whose nightie that was.

The Modernaire is an an example of Lincoln Highway architecture built in the heyday of the great coast-to-coast road. Haines Shoe House is the area’s most prominent Lincoln Highway-related structure. Lee’s Diner, west of York, fed motorists. The now-demolished Stony Brook Drive-in, near the Modernaire, entertained motorists, as did the equally flattened Lincolnway Drive-in west of town. The old Lincoln Highway Garage serviced motorists’ vehicles.
Many such businesses continue to operate along the Lincoln Highway’s length today, although much of local routes 462 and 30 has been bypassed.
The Zimmermans got into the motel business about the time that the Route 30 bypass plan was moving ahead, culminating in the opening of the Wright’s Ferry Bridge in 1972.
Richard Zimmerman’s daughter, Deborah, and husband, Bob Straw, took over the Modernaire in the mid-1980s.
They were owners when Lincoln Highway expert Brian Butko visited in researching his 1996 “The Lincoln Highway, Pennsylvania Traveler’s Guide.”
“When you enter, you’ll be greeted by their rottweiler dogs,” Butko wrote, “as the lobby serves as the family’s living room.”
They just don’t make hotels like that anymore.