Old Muncie motel could see new life as housing for vets
MUNCIE, Ind. – A historic motel south of Muncie, empty and neglected for years, might have a new life as housing for veterans.
The Hilltop Motel, which is in disrepair and overrun with weeds, was in Delaware County’s possession due to unpaid property taxes. In a meeting Monday, the county commissioners agreed to give the motel to the Indiana Veterans Foundation, a local group that will explore possibilities for funding a new housing facility for veterans with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), traumatic brain injury and substance abuse, as well as for homeless veterans.
Commissioners James King, Shannon Henry and Sherry Riggin voted Monday to approve the transfer of the property, at 4701 S. Walnut St.
The Hilltop Motel has been a landmark south of the city limits for decades. Located just past the intersection of Walnut and Madison streets, the Hilltop opened in October 1956. By 1961, the owners had more than doubled the motel in size from 10 units to 22 units by adding a wing near the original building.
Built – appropriately for its name – on a hill along the road, the motel was the first visible to travelers who left Ind. 3 and took South Walnut Street into Muncie. A billboard and neon sign beckoned travelers from Ind. 3 and Ind. 67. The two roads met at the city limits just north of the motel. Both the billboard and neon sign have been gone for years.
Over the years, however, the flow of traffic past the motel lessened. The construction of the Muncie Bypass meant that traffic was intercepted from Ind. 3 where it met Walnut Street two miles south of the Hilltop.
The motel held on and got some publicity over the years. In October 1985, a 10-foot-long boa constrictor was spotted near the motel. Police and animal control officers were called, but David Beard, a resident nearby along Walnut Street, found the snake and, after posing for pictures with it draped around his shoulders, took it to a veterinarian and said he planned to keep it.
Authorities said they believed the snake had escaped that previous July when a carnival worker was in town for the Delaware County Fair and staying at the Hilltop.
The Hilltop had been in headlines across the state four years earlier, in June 1981, when Vivian Love, a retired teacher from Chicago, had been in town and staying at the Hilltop. When she checked out, she left behind a suitcase. Motel management kept the suitcase, unopened, for a year, hoping Love would return.
When she didn’t return and her suitcase was opened, inside were 18 U.S. savings bonds, each with a face value of $1,000. After articles about the discovery appeared in newspapers around the state, a friend contacted Love to tell her that her savings bonds had been found. Love contacted local authorities to recover her savings bonds.
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Although ads in The Star Press in 2014 indicate a liquidation auction was held at the motel, at least some of its rooms might have been in use as recently as 2021, when The Star Press reported an Anderson man had been arrested at the motel after dispatchers received reports of a man with a gun. The man was arrested on gun- and drug-related charges.
During Monday’s meeting, the commissioners didn’t discuss the possible future uses of the property. Documents regarding the transfer of the property to a non-profit organization indicate local Chevrolet dealer Sam Pierce is an officer of the Indiana Veterans Foundation and Joe Rhetts, an attorney who often acts as attorney for the commissioners, was registered agent for the group.