By Drew Smith, Front Desk Manager
For as long as the Austin Motel sign has stood towering over the 1200 block of South Congress Avenue—nearly 80 years—people have noted the boldly suggestive nature of its design.
In terms of local signage, ours is no doubt among Austin’s biggest members, a full 25 feet high at the tip. People wonder what could hold such a substantial shaft aloft. Believe it or not, the sign—ablaze in bright red neon—is supported by an enormous ship’s mast of unknown origin.
Working at the Austin Motel, you hear it all. Many locals have grown up calling it simply “the penis motel,” though we prefer the more stately designation “The Phallus Palace.” It seems as if each new person that encounters the sign imagines they are the first to notice something familiar in its magnificence. No doubt Freud would have had something to say about such widespread pattern recognition.
Each day, we at the motel get asked if we see it too. We certainly do. We see it and embrace it. And, though the name of the sign’s designer is lost to history, we’re proud to say that his or her greatest erection lives on.