If you are looking for a unique, historical experience in middle America look no further than the Reed-Niland Corner in Colo, Iowa. This restored cafe, motel, and museum-like gas station location is a premiere stop on the Lincoln Highway Heritage Byway. Whether it is the enticing good food, more-than-reasonable motel rates, or glow of the neon light in the Iowa landscape, this one-stop location has an appeal for the traveler like no other location in Iowa or even in the nation.


Photo credits: City of Colo

It is literally in the middle of America. The Lincoln Highway was designated in 1913 and runs east and west at the north side of the town of Colo. It is now known as County Road E41. The Lincoln Highway begins in Times Square in New York and travels to San Francisco in California. The Jefferson Highway (now US HWY 65) was formed in 1915 on a north/south route, from Winnipeg, Canada to New Orleans, Louisiana. The two historic roads conjoin at the Reed-Niland corner and travel together westward through the town of Nevada, before the Jefferson turns southward to Des Moines and eventually exiting Iowa and traveling on into Missouri .

Charlie Reed saw great opportunity in capitalizing on the site’s prime location by building his gas station and cafe on a yet unpaved gravel road. He later joined forces with his nephew, Clare Niland. The cafe was originally called the “L & J Cafe” and was open 24 hours, 7 days a week as both the Greyhound and Jefferson bus lines stopped here. The motel units replaced the original cabins on the grounds in the 1940s.

From their website http://www.reednilandcorner.org/ :”The Reed-Niland Corner has served locals and travelers since the 1920s. Visit the site to learn more about the last remaining ‘One Stop’ where all three components (Gas – Food – Lodging) are still intact along the Lincoln or Jefferson Highways.

The interpretive site includes a self-guided walking tour where visitors may learn more about the history of the cafe which serves classic cafe food Tues – Sunday and the restored motel where weary travelers may once again rest their heads and plan their travels (now with the assistance of free wireless internet.)

The site has 6 restored motel units that rent for a mere $52 + tax per night, offers cable and WiFi, and has laundry services available upon request and room ice during cafe hours. There is no smoking, no pets, and no grilling.

The Cafe is open Tues-Sunday offering breakfast, lunch, and supper. The homemade food includes pies, sandwiches, and malts along with other classic cafe food.

As they say, the Reed-Niland is a cafe with a side of history. Stop in and pick up Lincoln Highway Heritage Byway brochures, Iowa Tourism information, and Iowa DOT maps. Enjoy the ambiance as you learn about the history. It is well worth the stop.