The Golden Age of Motels
19 artifacts in this set
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Postcard, Alamo Plaza Hotel Courts, circa 1930
Begun in 1929, Alamo Plaza Hotel Courts was an early referral chain of several individually owned motels that, in architectural style and name, proudly recalled Texas heritage. Each of these Courts was operated by a family member or friend of entrepreneur and founder Lee Torrance.
Postcard, Kirk's Tourist Camp, Hodgenville, Kentucky, circa 1935
Motorists weary of roughing it in tents found that homey little cabins offered a convenient, economical alternative. By the 1930s, tourist cabins were popping up everywhere. Kirk's Tourist Camp offered convenient lodging next to an automotive service station in Hodgenville, Kentucky -- near Abraham Lincoln's birthplace and boyhood home.
Bell's Tourist Camp, Texarkana, Arkansas, circa 1935
Motorists weary of roughing it in tents found that homey little cabins offered a convenient, economical alternative. By the 1930s, tourist cabins were popping up everywhere. Bell's Tourist Camp in Texarkana, Arkansas, offered a selection of "modern cottages," along with a restaurant and market.
"Olney's Camp on U.S. 80, Lordsburg, New Mexico," 1935
The Texaco gas station was the focus of this postcard for Olney's Camp in Lordsburg, New Mexico. C.C. Olney, the proprietor, promised "reasonable prices" for a stay in his "strictly modern cabins." The cabins were connected to each other by garages for car parking. The architecture of Olney's Camp was Pueblo Revival, a popular style in the Southwest.
Little Detroit Tavern and Cabins, near Negaunee, Michigan, 1935-1950
Photographic cards like this one, with their glued-on labels, were a preliminary step taken by Dexter Press before producing postcards for small business owners to mail or hand out to customers. The owner of this tourist stop, located in Michigan's Upper Peninsula, tried to cover all bases -- offering lunch, beer and wine, gasoline and oil, and overnight lodging.
Bel-Air Motel, Dodge City, Kansas, 1935-1950
Photographic cards like this one, with their glued-on labels, were a preliminary step taken by Dexter Press before producing postcards for small business owners to mail or hand out. When Mom-and-Pop owners of tourist cabins realized the efficiencies they could achieve by stringing rooms together in a long row, thousands of new "motels" beckoned motorists with their unique homey comforts.
Koronado Kourts Motel on Route 66, Joplin, Missouri, circa 1940
Motorists traveling on U.S. Highway 66 around 1940 could stop at the Koronado Kourts in Joplin, Missouri. This foldout postcard depicts the clean and well laid out buildings of this tourist court. Owners confidently claimed that their establishment was "The Finest and Most Up-to-Date Tourist Kourts in the Entire Southwest on U.S. 66 Highway."
Silver Swan Court Motel, Springfield, Ohio, 1940
The Silver Swan Court provided 12 modern cabins with private showers to travelers along U.S. Highway 40 east of Springfield, Ohio. This 1940 postcard also gives a glimpse of a cabin's interior with an inset image on the right.
Postcard, The Marco Tourist Court, St. Augustine, Florida, 1947
The Marco Tourist Court delivered on the expectation that a Florida vacation should involve lots of sunshine and time spent outdoors. The lawn chairs, swiveling patio umbrellas, colorful gardens, and picturesque footbridge in this postcard enticed potential guests. Mr. and Mrs. Jimmie Guidry, the owners and managers, also advertised that each of their homey-looking cottages had heat and private baths.
Postcard, "Cactus Motor Lodge," Tucumcari, New Mexico, circa 1947
Federal Highway 66 (more commonly known as Route 66) was established in 1926, and it spanned 2,448 miles from Chicago, Illinois, to Los Angeles, California. The Cactus Motor Lodge, built in Tucumcari, New Mexico, in 1941, was a welcome sight to weary travelers driving west from Texas. Rooms boasted "New Mexico's finest steam heat," box springs, and carpeting.
Postcard, La Siesta Court Motel, Winter Park, Florida, 1950
Motel design often reflected regional architectural style. This 1950 postcard shows La Siesta Court in Winter Park, Florida. The Spanish Revival architecture evokes the early history of central Florida.
Paradise Tourist Park, New York City, 1948-1950
Photographic cards like this one, with their glued-on labels, were a preliminary step taken by Dexter Press before producing postcards for small business owners to mail or hand out to customers. Roadside tourist cabins and cottages like these -- though primitive -- promised motorists more comfort than outdoor camping and less expense than a hotel stay.
"Crouse's Motor Court- Five Minutes to Heart of City," Fort Dodge, Iowa, 1952
This motor court was laid out like a veritable neighborhood of cottages, akin to the suburban streets of many of its customers. According to the postcard, the proprietor promised that each room was "100% modern" and had vented "Panel-Ray" heat. Cooking facilities were also available while a swing set out in the central courtyard provided a diversion for the kids.
Postcard, Royal Motor Lodge, Santee, South Carolina, 1950-1965
The owners of the Royal Motor Lodge in Santee, South Carolina, met certain service standards and could sport the Best Western logo. Some travelers looking for reliable facilities and quality visitor experience relied on these association logos to help make decisions on where to stay.
"A. G. Gaston Motel, Birmingham's Most Comfortable Relaxing Center," Birmingham, Alabama, 1954
A. G. Gaston founded this motel in 1954 to provide African-American travelers a place to stay while in Birmingham, Alabama. Modeled after the groundbreaking Holiday Inns that had recently opened in Memphis, Tennessee, this motel included 32 rooms, each with their own air-conditioning and telephone. In 1963, the motel became the epicenter of Birmingham's Civil Rights protests and demonstrations.
Postcard, The Springs Motel, Lexington, Kentucky, circa 1955
Motel design often reflected regional architectural style. The Springs Motel in Lexington, Kentucky, as seen in this ca. 1955 postcard, reminds one of the numerous horse farms visible throughout the Bluegrass Region of Kentucky.
"Sol-Mar Motel," Jacksonville Beach, Florida, circa 1955
By the 1950s, motels faced increasing competition from a plethora of other motels, more modern motor inns in urban areas, and the hugely popular Holiday Inn chain (started 1952). Newer motel designs like this one had multiple stories, swimming pools, and larger rooms with an array of features that included wall-to-wall carpeting, air-conditioning, free ice, in-room telephones, and TVs.
Old South Motel, Atlanta, Georgia, circa 1960
Motel design often reflected regional architectural style. This ca. 1960 postcard depicts the Old South Motel in Atlanta, Georgia, which may remind one of a southern plantation.
"Dreamland Motel," Sylvania, Georgia, 1960
A motel postcard was usually a free souvenir for guests, but it also served as advertisement for the owner. This postcard shows the Dreamland Motel and its amenities -- a pool and restaurant. A patron sent this postcard to friends in Dearborn, Michigan. Perhaps these friends -- the motel owner hoped -- would stop and stay when they passed through on their way to Florida.