Mr. and Mrs. Frank E. Ross opened the El Rancho Motel at 5508 Rt. 14 in Harvard, Illinois on January 9, 1954. The motel, built in a U-shape, contained a large lobby with a stone fireplace containing rocks from every state in the union.
The Ross’ provided a good place to stay for years. The motel was quiet and clean and far enough back from the road that traffic noise was not an issue.
On Saturday, June 22, 1968 a fire would severely damage the office of the motel and burn Marie Willms from her shoulder to her wrist. She would be hospitalized for a few days. The fire started when a lawn mower exploded in a garage in the middle of the complex. The fuel in the lawn mower allowed the fire to spread quickly. Marie heard the explosion of the lawn mower and went outside only to be burned by the flames. Two cars, the motel office and the Willms living quarters were destroyed in the fire.
The motel would be rebuilt but the Willms would not be owners for much longer.
In 1972, Henry and Marie Willms would sell the El Rancho to Mr. and Mrs. Ted Juske. The Willms, ever the gracious hosts, took out an add in the local newspaper to thank the people for their support during their nine years in the community.
The Juskes would take over in February of 1972 and only stay on as owners and managers for a short time. By 1975 a new family would take over the El Rancho.
Larry Kostka,historian and train enthusiast, would take over ownership of the motel around the end of 1974.
The motel would last through the mid 2000s. It was ultimately torn down sometime between 2007 and 2012. An O’Reilly Auto Parts is located on the site.
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