Lost Memphis (and Good Riddance): The Palomino Motel



The one good thing you could say about the old Palomino Motel, just past the city limits on Summer, was that it had a cool-looking neon sign.

But just everything else about this place was bad news. I'm sure at some point in its long history the motel, located where Bartlett Road runs into Summer, must have been an attractive place to stay, for business travelers or families on vacation. But during my lifetime, it mainly had a reputation for trouble — a place to go if you had a fondness for drugs or prostitutes and other unsavory aspects of our city.

The worst event of all came sometime in the 1970s 1987, when a policeman, called to the motel to quell some kind of domestic disturbance, shot and killed a young boy playing with a BB pistol in the motel parking lot. It looked, to him, like a real gun. I believe the place came tumbling down soon after that.

For a few years, though, the great old sign remained standing, and this photo is actually converted from a 35mm Kodachrome slide I took of the place in the late 1970s. There's no trace of the sign — or the motel — now.

Sometimes the places I feature in these "Lost Memphis" blog posts make us feel sad at their passing. As I noted in the headline, though, most people probably think "good riddance!" when they talk about the demise of the Palomino.

Reader Comments:
Aug 20, 2012 05:54 pm
 Posted by  Anonymous

The murder of Marcus Norris by the police officer happened the last day of 1987.

Aug 21, 2012 11:47 am
 Posted by  Anonymous

Drew's corner bar & restaurant was across the street on Summer Ave & Bartlett Rd. Mr. Drew went blind over time and ran the restaurant with out sight for the last couple of years in the late 1970s.

Aug 21, 2012 01:03 pm
 Posted by  Anonymous

Ah, the good old days, where a night at the Palomino meant whiskey, women, and a dose of the clap.

Aug 22, 2012 01:31 pm
 Posted by  Fred Jennings

Malcolm Rogers owned the motel in the late 60's till closing. He owned "Pat" the palomino horse who lived behind the motel. When I was about 11 years old, my father took me there to ride Pat. She was rarely ridden and didn't like the fact I was on her back. She taught me quickly that tall horses & low hanging limbs don't mix. I think I still have scars 46 years later. Fred jennings

Sep 2, 2012 01:21 pm
 Posted by  Anonymous

I can remember the name; but not what it looked like. Are there other pics?

Sep 30, 2013 12:57 pm
 Posted by  Anonymous

I remember the shooting at the Palomino back in the 80's. My sister had some involvement in what happened that day. There was a beauty salon across the street from the motel where my sister happened to be at the time. The young black male was seen with a gun. Not knowing if it was real or not, they called the police and everyone knows what happened after that. I remember many detectives coming to my mother's home, setting up a tape recorder on the dinner table and taping the interview with my sister. She was only around 16 at the time. I remember reading an article in the Commercial Appeal that they had titled something to the effect, Girl causes death of boy with a toy gun. Something along those lines, which my family thought was totally unfair to my sister.

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Ask Vance is the blog of Vance Lauderdale, the award-winning columnist of Memphis magazine and MBQ: Inside Memphis Business.  Vance is the author of three books: Ask Vance: The Best Questions and Answers from Memphis Magazine's History and Trivia Expert (2003), as well as Ask Vance: More Questions and Answers from Memphis Magazine's History Expert (2011) and Vance Lauderdale's Lost Memphis (2013). He is also the recipient of quite a few nice awards, the creator of several eye-catching wall calendars, and the only person we know with a vintage shock-treatment machine in his den. 

You can find him from time to time in the pages of the Memphis Flyer and MBQ, on WKNO television, and on Facebook. When he is not exploring the highways and byways of Memphis, he spends his time sleeping, napping, and dozing.

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