American kitsch: vintage motels

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Kitsch is defined as art, objects, or design considered to be in bad taste because of excessive garishness or sentimentality, but sometimes appreciated in an ironic way. I love the nostalgia and humor of American kitsch and will occasionally share amusing examples of it in this blog. Today's post is dedicated to vintage roadside motels.

Are there vintage motels where you live?

Before corporations dominated the travel industry, there was a time when privately owned motels (first known as motor courts) were the norm. These family owned “mom and pop” lodgings began appearing during the 1930s when more people traveled by car instead of by train or horse. In 1900, there were 8,000 registered automobiles in America. By 1930, that number had dramatically increased to 23 million. People were driving all over the country and they needed places to sleep at night.

First there was roadside camping, then roadside cabins. As competition for tourist dollars increased, the offerings became more sophisticated and comfortable, and so the “motel” was born. With wild and wonderful neon signs, motels sprang up (grew) across the country to entice travelers in for the night with festive names like Siesta Motel, Pink Cloud Motel, Pink Poodle Motel, Sea Shell Motel, Half Moon Motel, and the ever-popular Wigwam Motel.

If you’re lucky enough to come across (find) one of these relics of the golden age of the automobile, immerse yourself in an era of the past, the glory days of the open road, and stay for a night. Because of the interstate highway system that began construction in 1956, the charming motels were often bypassed and, consequently, many of these treasured establishments closed and were overtaken by the corporate chains.

Although the majority of family owned motor courts and motels are long gone, they are not forgotten!

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