If you've ever spent more than a minute driving northbound on U.S. Highway 75 (and you definitely have because the damn highway is more clogged than a competitive eater's arteries), you've seen the Como Motel
The colorful motor inn is next to a Pappasito's Cantina Tex-Mex restaurant and in front of a small office park that looks like it came off the set of Mad Men
. The motel still has the diamond-shaped sign over the front entrance, yellow brick walls with bright red boarding that's chipping away and complimentary striped soap bars in every room.
A few years ago, we wrote about our fetish for the Como and other irresistibly sleazy motels
of its kind.
Now there's a chance that the Como Motel could be demolished. Richardson neighbors say the motel is set to be replaced with a new restaurant or might just get paved over entirely to make space for a parking lot.
The Como Motel went up for sale two weeks ago after 67 years in operation, and an unknown buyer purchased the property through a real estate broker. Several Richardson residents confirmed the motel's purchase and the new owner's plans for the site.
"As a resident and a business owner, it would be devastating to see the Como Motel torn down," says musician and Beyond the Bar
co-owner Reid Robinson. "It's a rich icon, a gateway to our city, a historic landmark."
Some nearby residents and business owners are stepping up to try and stop the bulldozers from turning the roadside motel into a flat pancake of memories with a petition called Save the Como
Richardson resident Lindsey Sherritt and Robinson started the petition on Change.org
calling for the new unidentified owners to preserve the motel for its historical significance and the commercial opportunities it can provide to Richardson's growing "core" downtown district. So far, the petition has gathered more than 1,500 signatures.
The lighted sign of the Como Motel greets guests or passerby on Central Expressway.
Courtesy of Reid Robinson
Sherritt has led several local preservation efforts for some of the city's historically significant buildings, has contacted a potential buyer to offer the new, unknown owners a chance to sell the property back to those who want to keep the motel standing.
"Unfortunately, their offer was not accepted by the current owners," Sherritt said in a released statement. "We see the potential of the Como Motel's renovation and know that this project would attract MCM [mid-century modern] enthusiast visitors from all over, not just Richardson."
David Harrel, the vice president of the commercial real estate firm Durkin Properties, which owns several historic buildings and renovated them for new businesses in Richardson's Core district, confirmed that the new owners of the Como Motel declined the offer.
The new owners' reasons for declining has nothing to do with money, according to Harrel.
"I assume it's a chain because if it's someone from Richardson, we would usually hear about them, but the broker is not releasing [the identity of the motel's new owner]," Harrel says.
The Como Motel has other interesting claims on history beyond its 1950s aesthetic — as a true crime landmark, for starters. The motel served as the secret love nest for acquitted killer Candy Montgomery, who met there with her paramour Allan Gore before she was charged with killing Gore's wife, Betty, on June 13, 1980, at her home in Wylie.
Police determined Betty was beaten to death with a 3-foot long ax. Montgomery and the Gores' grisly story was chronicled in Texas Monthly
magazine and in the best-selling book Evidence of Love: A True Story of Passion and Death in the Suburbs
by writers John Bloom (aka Joe Bob Briggs) and Jim Atkinson. In the past years, the case saw a resurgence thanks to two series: the HBO Max mini series Love & Death,
starring Elizabeth Olsen and Jesse Plemons, and the Hulu miniseries Candy
starring Jessica Biel.
The Como Motel's reputation and legacy isn't all grisly, despite its connection to one of Collin County's most infamous murder cases. One of the motel's frequent visitors was a very young Capt. Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger, the US Airways pilot who, on Jan. 15, 2006 (with co-pilot Jeffrey Skiles), famously landed an Airbus A320 in the Hudson River after losing both engines to a bird strike shortly after takeoff from New York's LaGuardia Airport.
In his 2016 memoir Highest Duty: My Search for What Really Matters,
Sullenberger wrote about his childhood in Denison and how his family took frequent, unscheduled trips down to Dallas and always stayed at the Como Motel. These spur-of-the-moment trips were "a continual reminder to [Sullenberger] about my dad's appreciation of the distinctions between work and family. Family came first. Ahead of work and ahead of school."
"We always stayed at the same little roadside one-story motel, a typical '50s-era row of rooms right off the freeway: the Como Motel," Sullenberger wrote. "We'd swim in the small swimming pool in the middle of the parking lot. And we always ate at a Mexican restaurant called El Chico."
The Como' influence can also be seen in other parts of Richardson. Robinson says he has a tasting room in his non-alcoholic bar called the Como Room, complete with a wall mural by Annie Holland that re-creates the '50s-style motel. The Lone Chimney Mercantile, just a few blocks away from the Como, sells lithographs and large portraits depicting the historic motel's iconic diamond sign.
Sherritt wrote that preservation of the Como Motel is key to preserving the history of Richardson, especially as it finds new identities and visitors.
"Motels such as the Como are rare, and we have an opportunity to make an impact historically in North Texas by preserving and enhancing this MCM jewel," Sherritt said.
Artist Lisa Quine puts some finishing touches on a mural at Lone Chimney Mercantile depicting a re-creation of the slant-roofed, 1950s style motel in Richardson.