Greatest Generation and the Great American Road Trip
Martin L. Mundis, Jr. was a member of what many have called “The Greatest Generation.” He was born in York 1917, graduated from York High School in 1933 and went on to serve in the U.S. Navy Seabees in World War II. The military construction battalion built the infrastructure the other military branches needed to win the war. Martin Mundis returned home to build a successful construction company and real estate business. His professional and community service included time as President of the York Board of Realtors. He married Charlotte M. Heagy and like many couples after the war, they took a road trip west. When they returned home they decided to build and operate a special place for tourists traveling along the Lincoln Highway. Initially called The Modernaire Tourist Hotel, it was constructed out of local brick in a unique streamline modern architectural style similar to one of their favorite places they stayed at during their western road trip.
The Modernaire was located along one of the busiest highways of it’s day, the Lincoln Highway. Later it became known as U.S. 30 and today is simply called East Market Street or PA Route 462. Martin and Charlotte’s residence was just east at 2101 East Market Street. The Modernaire opened for business in 1949 and has been a family owned motel that has welcomed travelers for almost 75 years. It is similar to The Haines Shoe House a few miles to the east in that both buildings were meant to gain the attention of passing tourists as the drove through York County along our most historic road. Over the years, the Modernaire built more guest rooms behind the original brick motel along with a swimming pool to remain competitive in the ever changing lodging business. In the years after the relocation of U.S. 30, like many roadside attractions along the Lincoln Highway time and declining business has not been kind to the property.
Still as we travel today along the Lincoln Highway, we can remember our own “Great American Road Trip” and traveling with our families on summer vacations. The historic Modernaire Motel and it’s unique streamline modern architecture, reminds us of an era built by “The Greatest Generation” and seeing it put up for sale and possible demolition suggests all that will be left is a memory. Perhaps the new owner can incorporate this unique streamline design into the facade of their new building. Perhaps they could include the iconic steel letters of the motel sign into the design of their business. Perhaps they could create an interpretive panel with any outdoor eating area so that our Modernaire and Lincoln Highway memories are not forgotten. The possibilities are only limited by our creativity as a community. More than just another convenience store we need to remember and preserve the history of previous generations throughout our community. A good local example would be the Turkey Hill on The Lincoln Highway store a few miles west. Let’s work together to find a way to preserve more than simply a memory of the Modernaire Motel.