Special Report

Classic Images of Motels and Inns From Past and Present

As we enter the summer after more than a year of lockdowns caused by COVID-19, people are anxious to go places and do things. International travel is still problematic because we’re not done with the pandemic just yet, but domestic travel is picking up and what could be more American than a road trip? It’s a great way to see the country and has inspired whole genres of literature and movies. 

You need two things for a road trip — a car and a place to stay, preferably somewhere affordable and not far from the highway. With that in mind, 24/7 Tempo has compiled a list of some classic American motels and inns, from days past and present. 

Motels are literally made for road trips — motel is a contraction of motor and hotel, i.e. a place designed for motorists. The world’s first was in San Luis Obispo, California, and it’s on our list. 

Motels typically have certain features in common: a single building of connected rooms whose doors face a parking lot. They are often individually owned, though chains do exist. Motels peaked in popularity in the 1960s, when they faced competition from the big hotel chains and interstate highways bypassed small towns. 

Some of the old motels and inns on our list didn’t survive and were converted to other uses or were even demolished. 

Fortunately, quite a few classics still survive and can be visited. For a look at some other American treasures, here are the 30 most popular national monuments.

Click here to see classic images of motels and inns from past and present