Here in Kingston at 3204 Highway 2 we can catch a glimpse of how life has dramatically changed for travelers in our province, and how an era has been lost to falling ceilings and broken glass. The Midway Country Motel, the last remnant of a bygone day, is the casualty of a highway expansion, modern travel needs, and a shift in directions.
The motel would have attracted regular customers in the 1950s who would drive right by as they traversed the only major road that crossed Southern Ontario. One could travel along Highway 2 in the late 1950s and find dozens of independently run motels and several gas stations every 10 kilometres. In the 1950s, travel was not just about getting to the destination. Part of the journey was what you experienced on the road and the places where you stopped. The motel at this address was one of those sites on the road.
To the residents of Kingston, 3204 Highway 2 was an address that the youth in the late 1950s and early 60s would frequent for a night out at the Golden Slipper dance hall located on the grounds of the motel, which was then called the Golden Slipper Motel.
When not spinning and twirling to the latest song played inside the small venue, a quick trip to the parking lot for fresh air and a refreshing drink was the order. The youth of Kingston would flock to this small dance venue to celebrate something special, or just the fact it was Saturday night.
During its heyday, several fires had burnt the Golden Slipper to the ground, but it was always rebuilt. One final fiery disaster would burn the Golden Slipper Dance Hall to the ground in 1962. Unlike past destructive fires, there would be no rebuilding. The motel survived and relied on the business of travellers to keep going, but the draw for local Kingston residents ended when the walls of their favourite dance hall would crumble in a fiery blaze.
It was 1964 that would change life for all businesses that called Highway 2 home. The Macdonald-Cartier Freeway, Highway 401, was open for driving, allowing motorists a quick detour of the small towns that would rely on their patronage. Travelling would become more convenient with faster speeds, less traffic, and direct routes.
Much like the towns that dotted the famous Route 66 in the USA, these small motels and other businesses couldn’t survive the change. Country stores, gas stations, grocery stores, and motels would close their doors, never to reopen.
In many cases these lost business of Highway 2 would be sold off, torn down, and the land would be redeveloped for other ventures. Subdivisions from the larger cities would swallow up the vacant space, the memories of these rest stops and overnight stays would be confined to photo albums, with an occasional viewing for a quick trip down memory lane.
The Golden Slipper would fade into the background of young memories that would grow older and watch as the motel would change its name from The Golden Slipper Motel to the Midway Country Motel, and its final checkout at 11 a.m. would leave the doors closed, and the room keys at the office forever.
Today you can drive by the ruins of this motel that welcomed tired visitors on their car trips and greeted happy residents of Kingston looking for a fun night on the town. The walls are crumbling, the paint is fading, and you will not even notice the pool from your roadside view.
Take a moment and drive down Highway 2, and see a relic from a bygone age, when Highway 2 was the only way to travel. When part of the trip was the journey and brought you to little motels like this one that stood on the hill. If you stop and get out of your car, you might catch the faint echo of a past dance or hear the excitement of youth as they talked in the parking lot between dances. To have been at this place on a Saturday night in 1961 would have been a sight to see.
Bill Gowsell was born and raised in Kingston. With an interest in history, food, wine, and all things Disney, Bill has been writing for the last eight years on a variety of topics. During the summers he can be found at the family cottage north of Kingston, or at the bottom of Lake Ontario… scuba diving.