For years, I have seen photos of the vintage neon sign at the Moon Winx Lodge in Tuscaloosa. I’d even written about it. But I had never set eyes on it. I am, after all, an Auburn grad and visits to Tuscaloosa have been practically non-existent.
Until last Friday, when I was in Tuscaloosa speaking at a writers conference. Sweetums drove us over to University Boulevard in the Alberta City neighborhood and there it was. It was in pretty good shape for a 60-year-old sign and the smiling moon face still lights up at night. Jay Patel, the owner of the lodge, tried selling the sign two years ago but had no success. Thankfully, Patel did not get rid of the iconic sign.
Times of the Sign
The Moon Winx Lodge started life in the 1920s as the Moon Winx Motor Court on Alabama Highway 11/University Boulevard. According to BhamWiki.com, the lodge once included a restaurant that was named at varying times the The Barn and Lamplighter Restaurant.
BhamWiki.com says, “Operating originally as the Moon Winx Motor Court, the facility opened in the late-1920s with a maximum capacity of 56 guests in its 20 rooms. Owned originally by Meade Johnston, in 1946 he sold the motel to Victor Rogers, who in 1949 announced an expansion of the facility. Opening in January 1950, the $10,000 expansion added twelve air-conditioned rooms with a capacity of 24 additional guests.”
The sign was added in 1957, three years after a renovation added air conditioning to all of the 36 guest rooms. The sign was designed by Glenn House, who died in 2014, and built by Rivers Sign Co.
In 1961, the motel and sign were featured in the national Tourist Court Journal. Patel told AL.com in 2016 that the sign was expensive to maintain and that was shy he wanted to sell it. I’m not sure what his current plans are after it failed to sell.
Sweetums and I were happy to see another classic neon sign just up the street from the Moon Winx. Although it didn’t feature a personified moon, the sign at the Belaire Motel was a great example of vintage neon, painted a bright-blue. I didn’t find any information on the background of the Bel Aire.