W e were told not to go to St. Louis, especially not East St. Louis. The most interesting motel in the area, however, was the Indian Mound Motel, located in what is technically Fairmont City, Ill., near East St. Louis.
While St. Louis belongs to Missouri and lies west of the Mississippi River, East St. Louis is part of Illinois. It has lost one third of its population since the 1950s, currently holding less than 30,000 residents.
Scarred by racism and the absence of industry, much of East St. Louis is blighted. It is frequently declared the most dangerous city in America. Most of the bars and clubs we passed were shut down, many of them due to reports of violence.
But as strange and desolate as East St. Louis by night seems, there are some interesting surrounding towns. Fairmont City is one of them.
Fairmont City has a population of less than 3000, predominantly Hispanic. The city is built atop the Cahokia mounds, which explains the name of the motel. Eighty of the original 120 mounds remain today, along with a number of remnants of roadside Americana.
The Indian Mound Motel itself is rather ordinary. An orange cat patrols the dumpster, the rooms smell faintly of stale cigarette smoke but are clean, and it’s extraordinarily quiet.
If there are many murders here, they’re probably in the pool…
It also had a pretty sweet toilet. Kinda mismatched, but extended for… I don’t know.
Another town in the East St. Louis area is a small village of about 700 called Brooklyn (sometimes Lovejoy). Originally founded by free and escaped slaves in 1892, Brooklyn now consists predominantly of adult entertainment. Seventy-five percent of the total income of Brooklyn comes from an odd cluster of strip clubs someone on FourSquare has named “Whore Alley.”