The Lincoln Motor Court
Between 1940 and 1945, The Lincoln Motor Court was established by Clyde Crissey Jr and carpenter Thomas Mitchell. The Motor Court was built along the Lincoln Highway in the ever-popular Bedford County, PA to provide travelers a place to stay along the roadside. The Lincoln Motor Court is the only remaining, fully-functioning motor court along the highway today. The 12 cabins have been kept as close to original as possible, offering visitors an opportunity to immerse themselves into the rich history and culture of the Lincoln Highway.
Backstory and Context
Taking a trip along the Lincoln Highway, the first road to cross the nation, was so much more than a drive. Traveling on the highway was about the whole experience. While the Lincoln Highway, established in 1913, has undergone several improvements and changes over the years, some businesses, such as the Lincoln Motor Court, aim to preserve the community-oriented experience of life along the highway.1
The Lincoln Highway quickly grew in popularity. By the 1920s, travel by automobile was becoming very popular, causing the roadside landscape to change.2 During the 1930s the road had to be widened and straightened out to accommodate the growing number of travelers.3 The expansion of the roadway resulted in an increase in the number of businesses along the road, especially at the top of large hills. A steep climb could result in the overheating of older cars, meaning that they would need a chance to cool down. While they waited, the travelers would make use of the new business’ services.4
were many popular attractions in and around Bedford, Pennsylvania, such as the
Coffee Pot5, established
in 1927, and the Shawnee State Park, that attracted many travelers.6 The expansion of the
Shawnee Lake, in particular drastically increased the number of tourists. With
the growth of the town, visitors would often want to come and spend the night,
to rest from their travels, and make time to see many of these well-known
attractions. Before the advent of motor courts and cabins, people would stop
along the road and camp near their cars. People tended to camp in clusters, which
was the beginning of cottages, motels, and motor courts. Many people started to
establish their own cottage court businesses because they were simple to make
and relatively easy to manage.7 Between 1930 and 1939 the total number of tourist cabin businesses
Clyde Crissey Jr established the motor court, with the help of Thomas Mitchell, a carpenter, between 1940 and 1945. The Lincoln Motor Court was an attempt to expand business, as Crissey already owned the Hotel Lincoln on the opposite side of the road. The Lincoln Motor Court was built near the top of ‘Tull’s Hill’ in Bedford, PA. ‘Tull’s Hill’ was named after the Tull family, whose farm was located on the hillside. In 1777, the family was killed on their farm by Indian tribes.9 Despite its violent background, the hill was a great spot for a roadside business.
Throughout the following years, ownership of the motor court changed quite a few times. The Lincoln Motor Court was passed to Holmes and Margaret M. Boore in 1945. In 1956, Holmes Boore was given the property, but ended up selling it to Blanche B Mitchell, Thomas Mitchell’s second wife, ten days later. In 1965, the court was sold to the Mitchell’s daughter Harriet and her husband Joseph G. Mihelcic who owned it until 1978. At that point, the Mihelcics sold the court to Joseph and Joyce Gossard for $33,500. Finally, in 1983, the court was sold to the current owners, Robert J. Altizer, Jr. and his wife Deborah Altizer for approximately $25,000. In addition to the ownership, the name of the motor court was also changed. In 1983, the Altizers changed the name to the Country Comfort Motel, but it didn’t last very long.10 A few years later, the court was restored to its original name, The Lincoln Motor Court, to commemorate the historical significance of the highway.11
Today, Robert and Deborah Altizer work hard to preserve the unique charm of the Lincoln Motor Court, as it is the last remaining, functioning motor court along the Lincoln Highway. The court is still complete with 12 separate cabins positioned in a “U” shape around a courtyard and the owners’ house. Each cabin is complete with a small porch overlooking the courtyard which promotes that important value of community. The owners have tried to maintain as much of the original style and character of the cottages as possible. Inside each cabin, there are objects typical of the 1940s and 50s, such as radios, quilts, dollies, and suitcases.12 Wood paneling and ceramic bathrooms are an iconic part of the Motor Court’s cabins, to transport the guests back in time.13
the last remaining motor court still serving overnight guests along the Lincoln
Highway, the Lincoln Motor Court has a significant role in preserving unique
parts of the Lincoln Highway experience.14 Pennsylvania Preservation had a program in 2014 called "Pennsylvania at Risk" that helped support the Lincoln Motor Court. In 2008, they were featured in a documentary, "A Ride Along
the Lincoln Highway," which also helped to support the success of the business.15 The court continues to
serve all kinds of guests, providing them with much more than a place to stay.
The Lincoln Motor Court offers its visitors an immersive experience to witness
the lifestyle and culture of life on the Lincoln Highway.
1) Lincoln Motor Court (2016), www.lincolnmotorcourt.com/.
2) Scott D. Heberling and William M. Hunter, On the Road: Highways and History in Bedford County (Pennsylvania: Pennsylvania Department of Transporation, 2006)
3) Pennsylvania Highways: US 30, http://www.pahighways.com/us/US30.html.
4) Debbie Altizer, National Register of Historic Places: The Lincoln Motor Court (Pennsylvania: unpublished)
5) Lincoln Motor Court (2016), www.lincolnmotorcourt.com/.
6) Lincoln Motor Court, Bedford, PA (Bedford County Visitors Bureau), www.visitbedfordcounty.com/lincoln/.
7) Debbie Altizer, National Register
8) John Margolies, Home Away from Home: Motels in America (Little Brown and Company, 1995)
9) The Tull's Hill Massacre (American Civil War Forums, 2005), civilwartalk.com/threads/the-tulls-hill-massacre.3923/.
10) Brian Butko, Pennsylvania Traveler's Guide (Stackpole Books, 2002)
11) Debbie Altizer, National Register
12) Debbie Altizer, National Register
13) Lincoln Motor Court (2016), www.lincolnmotorcourt.com/.
14) Debbie Altizer, National Register
15) Altizer, Debbie. Interview with Faith Brake. Personal email interview. February 2019.
Altizer, Debbie. Interview with Faith Brake. Personal email interview. February
Butko, Brian. Pennsylvania Traveler's Guide. Edition 2. Stackpole Books, 2002.
Heberling, Scott D. Hunter, William M. On the Road: Highways and History in Bedford County. Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, 2006.
Lincoln Motor Court, Bedford PA. Bedford County Visitors Bureau. Accessed April 09, 2019. www.visitbedfordcounty.com/lincoln/.
Margolies, John. Home Away from Home: Motels in America. Little Brown and Company, 1995. 0-8212-2162
National Register of Historic Places, The Lincoln
Motor Court, Manns Choice, Bedford, Pennsylvania, unpublished. By Debbie Altizer.
The Lincoln Motor Court. 2016. Accessed April 08, 2019. https://www.lincolnmotorcourt.com/.
Elliot, Joseph. Lincoln Motor Court, 5104 Lincoln Highway, Manns Choice, Bedford County, PA. Library of Congress. 1968. Accessed April 09, 2019. https://www.loc.gov/resource/hhh.pa3963.photos?st=gallery.
John, Margolies. Home Away from Home: Motels in America. Little Brown and Company, 1995. 0-8212-2162
Lincoln Highway Heritage Corridor Archives. 4cBox2 & 2cBox3