The London Motel - Englewood, CO
Sitting at 3225 S. Santa Fe Drive, just north of where the old Cinderella Twin Drive-In movie theater on Hampden used to be, there was the London Motel. A long shuttered roadside motel that looked to date back to the 1940's, if not earlier. Other than the fact that I know it existed, I’ve never been able to find much information about the motel's origins or history.
The only info I could find on its active use, was a business registration file with the state of Colorado, for the motel’s operation, from March 11, 1998. That same listing says the business was voluntarily dissolved on April 10, 2005. I’m guessing the motel was closed and boarded up long before that, but the trailer park on the property behind it remained open until 2017.
The London Motel was a featured property in Wasted Quarter Issue 70: Abandoned Englewood. Unfortunately, just like every other subject in that book, the story suffered due to the choice of media. Condensing 20 or so photos into three 5.5" x 8.5" pages just isn't going to work out too well. Plus the pictures average just over an inch and a half wide, in black and white, so you're just not going to get any detail after it's printed. Factor in the 7pt text (printed that small, in order to fit all the words in), and you have a very dense, yet unreadable book. I liked the end result a lot, but I could see why people complained about the readability of that book.
None of those limitations on photos exist in this format! Despite it not being in book form, these pictures are in color! Trade-offs that must be made... Point being, I've decided to revisit The London Motel. Re-writing the Wasted Quarter story, updating it with photos and news that took place after the Summer of 1995.
Taking Santa Fe Drive north, you used to be able to look off to your left and see the London Motel. Sitting just off a dead end frontage road, blending into the background so you’d ignore it unless you knew it was there. I knew it was sitting there since I moved to Englewood, but I didn't much care until about 10 years ago...
The Googles provides an interesting satellite view of the demolished London Motel footprint. The two motel buildings that were visible from Santa Fe were up front, with the driveway running between them. Where the road forks, there used to be a house-like structure, that appeared to be much newer than the motel buildings. The road split and would take you down a fairly steep hill, into a small trailer park. About 20 trailers used to sit inside the road that looped around and went back up the hill, past the motel buildings and back out onto the frontage road.
There may have been more buildings as part of the motel at some point, the land around it hints at that. You can see some large pieces of aged pavement located just to the north of where the motel stood. I’ve never been able to find out what used to be here. If it was additional London Motel, or something completely different.
September 7, 2013
After finishing up pretending to be a supervisor at work this evening, I wandered the property of the abandoned motel on Santa Fe Drive. Plans were slowly starting to come together for the Abandoned Englewood project, and while I didn’t even know the name of this place at the time, it’s inclusion was key to the whole book idea. I’d ignored the property for years, but today it finally became a priority.
Both motel buildings had boarded up windows and doors, all painted the same shade of green as the exterior walls. It was an attempt to make the buildings blend into the surrounding area, and it kind of worked. You'd very easily overlook it while driving up Santa Fe. It did blend in with the trees at a quick glance.
I drove by the motel, turned around at the dead end, and parked at the entrance, between the two motel buildings. It was already getting dark for the night when I made it to the site, so I wouldn't have much time before lack of lighting made decent pictures impossible. Luckily, there's Photoshop to make the pictures I took appear better than they actually are.
The motel itself consisted of two long clusters of rooms, with a road between them. At the end of the road was a newer house, that appeared to be divided into two separate living spaces. Perhaps motel rooms at one time, likely as apartments during the London's last days. To the left and right of the house were narrow roads, leading you down and around a small trailer park. Which I didn't even know was there until I took these pictures.
The London Motel was probably around the same age as the Hill Top Motel. A similar scale Englewood roadside motel, a mile or so to the southeast, on Broadway. But the Hill Top had garages! Both the London and Hill Top were demolished in 2017.
The London reminded me of another former motel, located about 20 miles south on Santa Fe, in Louviers, Colorado. Or whatever Santa Fe Drive is called once you leave the Denver metro area. This place was spectacularly trashed and wide open in comparison. Probably a bit newer than the London, this motel was definitely used as apartments before it was demolished in 2016. And I have never been able to find out what it was called.
This is the part of the London I was looking at as I got out of my car, after parking in the driveway. There appeared to be three very small rooms under this sagging porch. These rooms were sealed up so I couldn’t see anything inside. But with three doors, I’m assuming each was it’s own room.
Going around to the back of the south motel building, there’s some slightly darker green paint covering up some tagging on the wall. It had likely been there for a while. That hand(?) painting on the wall was curiously not covered up. And wouldn’t be covered up for several more years. I always liked the look of it, and should have taken a better picture of it.
So zooming in on this picture will have to be the best I can do.
I can’t exactly go and take another picture of it..
Walking around to the back of south building. The green paint peeling off the cinder blocks to reveal the white paint underneath.
Let’s go look at the other building, we’ll come back to this side later...
Featuring a cameo by my old car at the end of north building! The motel buildings were not uniform in design or layout. Directly across from here, that end had a porch. These do not. Both rooms had deteriorating awnings above the doors instead.
Looking pretty shabby!
Oh wait! Let’s turn around, something on the south building had just caught my eye!
One of the three boards covering that window is broken off. Underneath, there’s the last non-green color scheme the London Motel used to be painted...
Last painted with a white and teal blue color scheme, before getting poorly coated in olive drab green paint.
There were also a few windows that were not all the way sealed. Holes in the glass uncovered by gaps in the boards over them, allowed me to aim the lens of my camera inside. I could even turn on the flash and see what was inside the closed, but not sealed up rooms. Before doing this the first time, I paused out of concern for awaking a vagrant who would then go all sorts of stabby on me. Oh hell, it's worth the risk! Once I saw the picture come up on my camera screen, I knew what lay beyond the barricades, hidden away for years.
I didn't get stabbed either!
A small piece of granite countertop was placed in front of this boarded up door. Almost like an offering to the gods of interior renovation, to restore this poor dead motel.
The gods would not respond.
A couple of doors down, there was a loosely covered window, with gaps at the top and bottom. This would allow an interior photo with minimal effort.
Looking inside that window, slightly to the left...
Inside straight on. This room had a back door. Also boarded up, but not painted green on the inside.
Just outside that window, a large tree was growing in the driveway. The sidewalk had even been modified to allow for the tree. I’ll commend the previous owners of the London Motel for letting the tree grow in an odd location, instead of doing the expected thing by cutting it down.
Turning back around to look again at the north building. Which also had a tree growing in a similar place, directly outside the window of one of the rooms. But another room has caught my eye... The last window will provide another excellent peek into that room.
When the London Motel was painted that deep masking green, whoever did it showed no discrimination in covering everything up. Whether it was glass, wood or cement, it got the same treatment. Coat it in green!
Even with the jagged gap between the boards and broken glass, this was probably the most intact room at the London. That almost looks like some original floor. Be it tile, paneling or very worn carpet.
These rooms were very tiny. With some of them barely having room for a small twin bed, let alone any other furnishings. Some of them left me wondering if there was even room for a shower, let alone a toilet, inside. Maybe the London Motel pre-dated indoor plumbing?
More white and blue visible behind this boarded up window and door, on the north building.
A few gaps were found in the front and back of both buildings. All I needed to do was gently pull back on the boards, jam the camera inside and snap a picture. Sometimes I got decent shots, others looked like this.
The walls of these rooms were stripped of copper wiring, with all fixtures removed. But no graffiti or tagging on the interior was to be found.
Damage from weather and age were apparent to both buildings. Trim was beaten up, roofs were sagging, trees overgrowing into the walls, even the boards covering the windows looked to be needing replacements...
This was one of the nicer looking room exteriors. The awning wasn't even collapsing!
Inside another broken window. I had to pull the board back a little more to get this shot. And it didn’t really have much to reveal. Beyond some more blue trim.
Looking at the west end of north building behind me, as I’m rethinking my idea to photograph the trailer park. With as desolate as the motel was, the trailer park was anything but. Seemed like everyone was outside their trailers, from adults to kids. All milling about their tiny plots of land, most of which were filled with garbage. Looked almost like a shabby refuge camp or war zone down there.
I did drive the loop to check it out before I left the London Motel, but I didn’t take any pictures. Lots of people glared at me as I slowly drove through, and none of them looked friendly...
I'll give the residents of the adjacent trailer park bonus points for their awesome custom speed limit sign, however...
A little demonic bunny rabbit hopped up to say high to me, while I was walking around the place. I chose to follow the bunny instead of walking around the trailers.
He led me to the back of north motel building, and then around the field.
Another look at the back of the north motel structure. There’s an interesting hole in the wall that needs to be looked at...
Unfortunately, there wasn’t anything that could be seen inside, even with the flash on.
There’s a fairly large tree blocking those window shutters. Makes me wonder how big the tree was when these shutters were last closed. I still like how even with the glass jagged and broken, the fragments were still painted over with green.
Let’s continue exploring the field...
A Led Zeppelin DVD case sits amongst other trash!
Some more trash that was conveniently placed in the same immediate area, so I only had to take one picture!
Walking around the area to the north leads me to think there were once more buildings at this motel.
The land is flat and cleared, with hints of former foundations. Cracked areas of overgrown pavement are found to the immediate north the two motel buildings. The area to the south had been cleared out in recent years, for that apartment complex that grew out of the Cinderella Twin Drive-In Theater's grave. A nice clean cut-de-sac ends the frontage road, just south of the motel.
Walking back out to the road between the motel, on my way to see if there’s anything of note behind the south building.
Some holes in the walls to check out, and more boards covering doors and windows. These were more secure when I tried to move them. I didn’t put in as much effort here as it was getting darker, and I was in clear view of the people living at the drive-in movie apartments.
This hole was partially blocked inside.
Square window was boarded up inside, with a ripped screen piece hanging in front of it.
So yeah, there wasn’t much of note going on here.
With the exception of this last room on south building. A nice sized hole in the back wall of this unit allowed a peek into the room directly behind this door and window. It looked to be caused by the removal of a ventilation grate. Squatting down, I could see the hole went all the way into the motel room. It was completely dark as the front windows were boarded up tight.
Let's activate the flash again to see what this room looks like!
Damn, It's really trashed!
After this picture, I got in my car and took the previously mentioned drive around the trailer park, before leaving the London Motel. Going in to this mission, I didn’t know what I would find at the property. I expected to simply take a few pictures of the buildings close up, instead of simply hoping I could get a decent shot while driving north on Santa Fe. I came away from it with a very good idea of what the London Motel may have looked like back in it's better days.
Satisfied with my mission, I called Laura to get her order, and told her I’d be home after stopping by...
I would have used a better picture here, but this is the one I actually took that night (September 7, 2013), on my way to a delicious turkey and bacon sub! The sun had set a while ago, so this photo had to be significantly edited. And it's still blurry...
As I discussed earlier, the London Motel became a featured property in my Wasted Quarter: Abandoned Englewood project. When I took those pictures, the book idea was still forming in my head. I already had one major chapter in the June, 2013 demolition of Flood Middle School, to start with.
Flood Middle School (June 2013)
But I didn’t have a whole lot else, until I put in the work of finding new properties around town, that we’re about to be scraped. My story of Flood has already been covered here and here. The London Motel came in a few months later, but would not be demolished yet, so I had to find other subjects to photograph for writing. Such as Englewood High School!
Englewood High School (January 2014)
Just a few short months after photographing the London, demolition felled the old High School I used to drive past daily, when I lived at Kenyon. I have not yet adapted Englewood High School chapter for this site. That will happen some day. I took too many great pictures of the demolition to not share them!
With enough featured chapters to complete the Abandoned Englewood book, it was written and printed in August, 2015. My attention moved to other Denver area abandonments, while keeping an eye on those nearby.
On November 6, 2016, I decided on another drive by of the London Motel, to see if there was anything new to note...
According to an Englewood City Council report from early 2014, Value Place Extended Stay Motels was interested in building on the land. Which would appear far too small for any sort of large scale motel project. With access from Santa Fe limited as well, I don’t know how feasible this idea would have been.
As it turned out, that re-use plan never happened.
The London Motel would stay as it was for several more years.
I forgot to mention, about a month after my September 2013 photo tour, new "No Trespassing" signs posted on the exterior walls of both buildings.
That kind of tickled me!
The hand graffiti was still uncovered on the south building, but some of the door and window coverings had been removed in the three years since I last walked around the property. And I kind of regret not taking this opportunity to take a new round of pictures. Betting I could have taken even better ones that I did in 2013. Or at least another level of interesting, when held against the last round I'd take the next Summer.
According to the nugget of information I found in the Englewood City Council report, the London Motel was on the market for sale for at $1.25 million. While I could easily see the land being worth that, problem being that comes with the expense of cleaning up what is already there. Demolishing the buildings and cleaning up the property, likely costing a large chunk of that $1.25 million. Probably why the London Motel stayed on the market for so long.
Despite numerous searches, I could find very little information about the London Motel online. Virtually no history is documented of the property. I did find an online resume of a guy who did maintenance at the motel and trailer park from 1986-1991.
I should have tried to contact him...
By April 2017, there was starting to be some rumblings of activity at the London Motel. I still drove by it all the time, taking Santa Fe north to go to work or wherever, but I started to see things changing at the site. An update appeared in the Englewood City Council newsletter that the property had finally been sold, and preparation for a new self-storage facility would soon begin on the land.
Tenants of the trailer park were all evicted at the end of May 2017, with a full scale clean-up of the property taking place once they were gone. This left me a window of June until the property would be fenced off to give it a final exploration. I chose June 17, 2017, as the day I’d pay my last respects to the London Motel.
Apparently, they ran out of that dark green paint to cover up the tagging, as a new and uglier lighter greenish sickly tan color covered everything on the southeast corner. Including that sweet hand painting, which was now covered over.
Looking at the back of the south building, you could see freshly placed old boards covering newly exposed openings. While the old plywood was still there or fallen off. Including the now revealed light teal door in the middle of the building. I should have taken more pictures, but I was in a hurry today. Oddly enough, the motel had an even more ominous vibe to it with the trailer park residents all gone.
Wow… Someone tagged the back of this room with a poorly painted Boognish!
Aw come on! You weren’t even trying!
If it weren’t for its cinder block casing, the wood deteriorating inside the motel would have collapsed the place years ago.
With all the residents of the trailer park gone, it was now safe to take pictures of the house at the top of the hill. Regret not going inside, since the house was left wide open, doors removed and all. I could have taken some nice interior shots FROM the interior. Instead, I settled for what I could see through the windows.
Like this chair!
And this closet!
And this bi-level deck and patio! Complete with garbage still on it!
The house was in the center of the hill. The road forked at the house, and was intended to be a one way, circling the trailer park. I would have been standing in the road facing traffic. If there was traffic... All of the trailers were now gone. But a lot of garbage was left on the lot. Since it was free of people, I was going to drive around it for photos. Not what I would have liked to have from 2013, but a lot safer today.
Looking back up the hill, at the motel, with the house on my left. There's the chair!
North side of house with my shadow underneath.
Oh, I guess there was still one intact window on the house.
And someone loves Lena...
Paint has really peeled in the last four years, on the north motel building.
Obvious pre-demolition work is being done on both motel buildings, with plywood leaning against the building, instead of attached to it.
A lot of the boards over windows and doors have been changed since 2013 as well. Looks like they quit bothering to paint them all green anymore. The last door on the right side of this picture, just had a loose piece of unattached plywood covering the missing door.
Here's what I saw when I moved it and looked in.
The room with the tree growing in front of the window, in the south building, was filled almost 2/3 of the way to the ceiling with garbage.
With a tagged half of a chair by blue framed window. Now re-covered, likely due to squatters breaking in at some point.
Looking into another room's tiny kitchenette(?).
Behind the north building.
With an open door on north building...
Before I took this picture, I stepped inside the room. Just so I'd be able to say I was once inside the London Motel. It's meaningless now matter how you look at it, but to me it felt appropriate to the reasons I was here. Now that my mission was nearly complete, it was time to drive around the trailer park and get the hell out of here. The whole place had a serious "get out" vibe to it, this time around. And it was definitely time to go...
That open window in the center of the south building was the room with the small kitchenette off to the right. Just in case you were looking for some perspective. I do regret not taking more pictures, so I had a better way of keeping track of which interior went to which room in the motel. I spent way too much time while writing this, going from picture to picture, trying to match clues in each to place where everything was.
And my notebook was of little help as far as clues go...
I walked back to my car, parked inconspicuously in the cul-de-sac at the end of the frontage road. I'd hoped to blend in with the other cars parked in that circle that morning. I was already pretty much out in the open as far as the Cinderella Twin Drive-In Memorial Apartments are concerned, and all it would take was for someone looking out their window and decide to be a hero...
Driving into London, between the motel buildings and down the hill into the trailer park, felt rather weird. The "Speed Limit 12 1/2 MPH" was now gone, but I was driving even slower than that. I wanted to soak in the atmosphere as I took pictures. Both as slowly and quickly as I could. I wanted to see what was left behind, but was really feeling like I needed to leave.
The trailer park had paved drive/walk ways between the stalls. Anything else was overgrown with weeds.
Or a tipped over kiddie pool!
A whole buncha random junk pile.
As I was passing by that junk pile, getting ready to take the next shot, something caught my eye in the rear view mirror. Two Englewood police cars drove up the frontage road towards the motel. Yup... Someone called the cops on me... Well, since I'm about to round the corner on my way out of here, I'll just continue taking my pictures and see what happens as soon as I try to leave London...
Once I'm spotted, maybe I could use this as my getaway car?
I'm sure the people who left it behind also left the keys in the ignition for me!
And I'm certain the car will start right up with no problems!
Better shot of the trailer pads.
Nice selection of total junk!
More junk with a refrigerator!
More trailer pads...
Some hazy research inside my daydreaming head was telling me there may have been a fire at the London Motel at some point. Possibly which took out a couple of the motel buildings? Of course I base that on nothing other than what I think may have happened. So let's fact check my head with the internet...
From 9 News.com, July 22, 2007: Englewood Police say they responded to The London Motel and Trailer Park at around 8:30 a.m. Sunday after receiving reports of a structure fire. The park is located at 3325 S. Santa Fe Drive. When officials arrived they found heavy smoke coming form one of the trailers. The residents of the trailer and surrounding trailers were evacuated and assisted by the Red Cross and the Englewood Victim's Assistance program. Englewood Fire was able to extinguish the fire quickly. No one was injured in the blaze and the cause is under investigation.
Well, that's not very exciting...
Last of the trailer pads.
I put the camera down after taking this last picture, and started up the hill by the house. I could see both of the police cars driving slowly towards me, between the two motel buildings. All I could do now was drive up to them and see if they stopped me. It was a tense few seconds as we approached.
The driver of the first police car was a female officer. We made eye contact and I nodded slightly towards her as I approached. She smiled back and that was it. I slowly passed her and saw the dude cop, in his car behind her. I gave him the standard acknowledgment nod, he no-sold it and I continued on and out. Relieved to get the hell out of there, I jumped on Santa Fe north and drove off to take some pictures in a part of town that wasn't Englewood. I probably went to Colfax...
I haven't had many encounters with someone bugging me about trespassing, and I'm glad today wasn't one of them!
July 22, 2017. I drove by the London Motel and saw the demolition fence had been sets up around the property. Could be any day the shovels come in and tear this place down.
If you had the first week of October, 2017 on your card, you win!
By the time I made it back to the London, it had been completely demolished.
Most of the debris had already been trucked off site.
The new owner of the property was planning on building a self-storage facility. Featuring a design that would make use of the odd shape of the former motel property. With lower levels at the bottom of the hill, where the trailer park once was.
And that's all I've got!
Laura and I moved away from Colorado in May of 2018. When we left, storage construction had yet to begin at the site. So I have no more recent photos to update this story.
Now that I've re-written this story, I guess I know what departed Englewood landmark comes next...