Saturday, February 9, 2013

Was "Citizen Kane" Born Here?

I came upon the Green Spot Motel in Victorville, California when my wife, in a weak moment, indulged my obsession with driving old Route 66 bit by bit, and agreed to head east from Los Angeles into the Mojave desert.  We had driven a good stretch of the old highway in Texas and New Mexico, but had seen no more of it in California than Santa Monica Boulevard, which hardly seems to count.  We were in LA for a week and I wanted to see the "real thing"...the old part of Route 66 that had not been swallowed up by that great city.

When we drove into Victorville, the Green Spot motel caught my eye right away.  This was the kind of place I was looking for!  It appeared to be a true remnant of the heyday of Route 66.  A little research confirmed the motel was built in 1937 (or thereabouts) by John Roy to capitalize on the highway's tourist trade.  The Green Spot thrived into the 1950s until the Freeway bypassed Victorville in 1959. 
It is in sad shape today.  But there is real history here.  The Route 66 Encyclopedia cites Hollywood legend that the first draft of "Citizen Kane" was written here.  Orson Welles had banished writers John Houseman and Herman J. Mankiewicz to Victorville to shield them from Hollywood distractions.  This old post card shows what a different place the Green Spot motel was in those days.
Here's another post card advertising the motel as "Southern California's finest auto court-- truly deluxe."  There you have it. 
With "running ice water" in each of the 21 units, air conditioning by Frigidaire, and, in later years, a pool in the courtyard, this must truly have seemed an oasis in the desert.

Just across the street, the Green Spot Cafe was a good place for a meal.  There were plenty of customers as the bus station was right next door.

Today, the swimming pool is filled in and covered up, the cafe is long gone, and the Green Spot is not quite as inviting as it once was.

The Green Spot now appears to be the kind of place that rents by the hour. What do you think?  Should we check in for the night?  The office is open.
We have to approach places like the Green Point motel with a little (or maybe a lot of) imagination if we want to recapture the vibe of the glory days of Route 66.
There are Green Spot motels in every town that was ever bypassed by an interstate.  Many have been torn down; others hang on somehow, waiting for what?  Someone to infuse them with money and bring them back?  It can happen.  Some of the old motels on Biscayne Boulevard in Miami that became crack-houses, centers for prostitution, and flop houses in the latter decades of the 20th century are actually receiving face-lifts and becoming what the investors like to call "boutique" properties.
Could it happen at the Green Spot motel?  I would never say never.  After all, how many motels can claim a spot on the timeline of "Citizen Kane" as a selling point? 


  1. Mike thanks for the information. Stayed here Labor Day weekend 1981 having just arrived from England. It had a real Film Noir feel. I like the Citizen Kane connection.

  2. Mike thanks for the information. Stayed here Labor Day weekend 1981 having just arrived from England. It had a real Film Noir feel. I like the Citizen Kane connection.

  3. My family lived here when were stationed at george AFB in 1954. I remember it well, glad to see it's still standing.

  4. FYI, I passed through Victorville on August 17, 2017 . . . The Green Spot Motel is all painted up pretty and remodeled, nearing ready to reopen . . . I spoke with the crew chief and owner . . . the plan is to ride the resurgence in commercial interest along California's Historic Route 66. It seems that CA is late in getting in the game, but my recent trip indicates folks along the route are working hard to get caught up.