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Then and Now – City Center Motel, Mauston, Wisconsin

City Center Motel of Mauston, Wisconsin in 2009 Abandoned on U.S. 12 and the former U.S. 16, (now Wisconsin state highway 16).

Can you imagine old cars lining the building in that parking lot? Can you imagine parents running after their kids along that second story railing? Can you imagine how noisy those air conditioners were?

In 2009, we were on a U.S. 12 road trip in Wisconsin when we drove up on this motel in Mauston. It took my breath away. All at once I felt a rush of sadness at its current condition, but also a wave of happiness when I thought of the memories that must have been made there.

The City Center Motel during its single story days.

Back in the day, Mauston wasn’t a destination. No doubt the travelers that stayed at the City Center Motel were on their way to the Wisconsin Dells, Milwaukee, Madison, the Twin Cities, Chicago…or points farther. I’m sure it wasn’t always the case, but I like to think the travelers that stayed here were excited, happy and enjoying their trips to wherever they were going.

It’s true, sometimes I romanticize these places.

In the years since our first visit to the abandoned City Center Motel, I’ve come across a couple of postcards that show it in those earlier, happier times.

City Center Motel postcard during its two-story days.

The postcards prove business at the City Center Motel was thriving at some point – they added a whole second story! Yes, the lack of cars in the parking lot is noted – like I said, I have a tendency to romanticize these places.

At some point it fell into disrepair and was abandoned.  According to the Juneau County Star-Times newspaper, the building had become a detriment to the community. As of 2010, it hadn’t welcomed travelers for years, according to the newspaper. It no longer met building codes, and became an eyesore on Mauston’s main thoroughfare. At one point, the city of Mauston couldn’t even find the owner to issue its demolition order.

Eventually they found him in a suburb of Chicago and issued the order to demolish the motel.

Waiting for demolition…

After months of back and forth “discussions” between the owner and the city, the City Center Motel was demolished.

Where the City Center once was.

During another one of our road trips though the region in 2011 we found nothing remaining except the u-shaped concrete platform the motel once sat on and the asphalt parking lot.


We drove by it again in 2017…

For sale in 2017.

…..this time it was for sale. We haven’t been by the property since 2017, I assume it’s still for sale, but I can’t find any updated information.

I know not every building can be saved. And not every building’s story can be told. But I like imagining what these walls could say about the roadside memories shared within them. I’m so grateful for the old postcards I’ve found of the City Center Motel too – they captured it at the high point of its life. And I prefer to think of it this way.

Sources and Further Reading:

Juneau County Star-Times

Razing and Revitalizing Recommended in Mauston – Juneau County Star-Times

City Center Motel Owner Can’t Be Found – Juneau County Star-Times

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