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Cookie Cutter Motels

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Cookie Cutter Motels

Postby JNB » Mon May 16, 2011 1:32 am

There has been some discussion of the present era of "cookie cutter motels" as compared with the old "classic motels."

Some of our visitors - especially "first timers" and those from overseas - may not be familiar with this term . However, motels of any era have been sort of the "cookie cutter" variety - everyone copied everyone. Those remaining are unique since they represent some that are very different from the latest.

The following is something of an "IMHO" review. There is a lot of overlap and these are just approximations as far as the years go .

1910's-1920's - In the early days of automobile travel, most of the lodgings for tourists were downtown hotels in major cities and catered to the railroad trade . Since a growing number of tourist were those who didn't want to dress up and stay in town, many towns established "Auto Camp Grounds" where motorists set up tents or often just a makeshift canvas shelter stretched from their car.

1920's-1930's - The first "Tourist Cabins" came in. Often just crude wooden shacks with room enough only for a bed and a night stand. Not many remaining. Perhaps the ruins of "John's Modern Cabins" is one of the few remaining examples. Later refinements were cabins around a central "court" and the term "Tourist Courts" evolved. Sometimes around a central toilet and shower room. Example of one of these may be seen in the old Clark Gable - Claudette Colbert movie "It Happened One Night" (ca. 1934)

1930's-1940's - "Tourist Courts" evolved into more elaborate complexes. Often units arranged in a row or around a central court. The Blue Swallow at Tucumcari is a good example. Most were stucco covered and had carports between the units.

The cabins evolved into cute little "doll houses", often brick or plaster. Wagon Wheel Motel is sort of an example of this type. Attached bath rooms came into being. "Air conditioning" might be an evaporative "swamp cooler" in the summer and a "panel ray heater" in the winter.

Some hotel types such as El Rancho at Gallup were built to cater to motorists. La Posada at Winslow was built in the 1930's but originally for the railroad trade. Fred Harvey had a large number of other places, mostly along and on the Santa Fe' Railroad. Some also in unique designs such as the Wigwams (Which are really teepees if you want to get technical about it :lol: ) Besides those at Holbrook and Rialto, there were a large number of these. Also those of the Alamo Plaza type.

1940's-1960's - More modern units were built...Tourist trade took off in the postwar boom era. Fancier brick units. Often with swimming pools. Munger Moss is a good example.

Chains such as Holiday Inn came in, along with Best Western, Quality Inn, etc. It seemed that everyone wanted to have a sign like a Holiday Inn. Names such as "Sands Motel" and "Desert Inn" were very numerous.

Howard Johnson and Holiday Inn featured combination motel and restaurant in one location. "Refrigerated air conditioner" came into use. A lot featured "parking at your door."

1960's -Present - The present era of "the cookie cutter" . Most new lodgings are in the hotel type with several stories and indoor corridors (for improved security) . Luxury appointments such as indoor spas and swimming pools. La Quinta, Holiday Inn Express are current examples. Better air conditioning - individual room units and central air - direct dial phones, flat screen TV with huge numbers of channels, etc. Also "economy types" such as Motel 6, Econo Lodge, etc.

This is a bit (again IMHO :lol: ). Perhaps there may be additions and corrections to the above in future postings.
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Re: Cookie Cutter Motels

Postby Black85Vette » Mon May 16, 2011 8:34 pm

The only addition I would make is the origin of the now outdated word "Motel" a shortened version of Motor-hotel.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Motel
"Well, the road didn't cut through the land like that Interstate. It moved with the land, it rose, it fell, it curved. Cars didn't drive on it to make great time. They drove on it to have a great time."
-Sally Carrera in "Cars"
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Re: Cookie Cutter Motels

Postby JNB » Mon May 16, 2011 9:24 pm

Black85Vette wrote
The only addition I would make is the origin of the now outdated word "Motel" a shortened version of Motor-hotel.


The Motel Inn at San Luis Obispo, California is said to be the origin of the name "Motel."
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Motel_Inn_ ... uis_Obispo

Most of the present generation places for lodging have gone to names such as "Motor Inns", "Motor Lodges" or just plain "Inns" or "Lodges", etc..

Another recent development is the "extended stay" type of mini-apartments such as Studio 6. Incidentally the name "Motel 6" came from the original price for a room started at $6.00.
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Re: Cookie Cutter Motels

Postby southwig » Tue May 17, 2011 11:46 am

Most people under the age of 60 wouldn't know this, but prior to the 1950's motels didn't have very good reputation. They were considered to be places where people met for illicit activities, and some even charged by the hour.

I man from Memphis Tennesee, Kemmons Wilson, the founder of Holiday Inn, came up with the idea after he made a trip with his family to Washington DC. He was unhappy with the type of motel accommodations available, and decided to do something about it. A couple of ideas Mr. Wilson incorporated into his Holiday Inn concept were the attached family restaurant and swimming pool.
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Re: Cookie Cutter Motels

Postby swa » Tue May 17, 2011 4:51 pm

There were in total 7 wigwam motels. 3 remaining, 2 on Route 66.
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Re: Cookie Cutter Motels

Postby swa » Tue May 17, 2011 4:59 pm

What I think most object to (or like) is not the concept being the same e.g. a spa, a restaurant, the layout, a big neon sign, ...
But it being absolutely *identical*. This is what is brought by the franchising of the business: the local business is forced to use the same color, the same painting, the same bedding, the same furniture, the same stuff on the breakfast buffet, ... Everything you need to run a motel is set in stone without any deviation, any freedom. Even how you're greeted and what order they explain things in is standardized in some chains. It's scary actually when I walk into some of these chains that they know -even if I've never set foot in the motel- that I like upper floor rooms away from the elevator.

Sure, individually those experiences are good, well studied, aiming for maximum comfort. But why travel if you could have the same experience in the motel one mile from your home as well as 2000 miles away. You're not going to be able to tell the difference when you wake up in the morning.

The one really good thing about it is important though: once you know you like the chain, you can safely book a room: it'll be exactly like the last one and you'll like it. But there is no adventure at all left in it, so if you seek that: stay away from staying more than once in the same chain.

So do I use chains: sure. When I need to book a room fast, without much trouble, I'll pick the city I don't know and see which of the chains I like has something affordable nearby. I might even do a quick Google streetview to be sure the location is something that will make me happy or not.
But if I need to stay in e.g. Tucumcari, NM: I'd go look for the email address of the new owners of the Blue Swallow and do my very best to book there. I just know it's going to be more fun there than near one of the exits of I-40. I do know what to expect, still no big adventure but it's different and allows for variation. And variation is good.

There is another way to do things, but it doesn't exist in many countries. I've experienced it in Spain (and Portugal has more or less a similar system): The Paradores are a chain, upmarket accommodation, top restaurant in a top historic relevant setting.
You know up front it will be simply excellent. But the building, the food, every detail is unique, special and interesting, most often linked to the history of the building (old fortress, old monastery, ....) the local products in the restaurant, local customs, ... .
To me that is what works best, but getting there is something else.
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Re: Cookie Cutter Motels

Postby swa » Tue May 17, 2011 6:21 pm

Another thing to consider with franchises and chains are the local economy and the environment.

The core of it is bound to their business model: purchase globally, and distribute it, bringing profits back to a central point (and the shareholders).
Other local businesses will not sell them much, if anything. Of course it means a lot more transport to get all the products from a central point instead of buying it locally.
And even worse: the central point also needs to get supplied from wherever the products are made, likely in a sweatshop overseas.

Compare it to a business that buys things locally and where the owners also spend whatever profit they make locally.
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Re: Cookie Cutter Motels

Postby JNB » Wed May 25, 2011 8:03 pm

swa wrote
There were in total 7 wigwam motels. 3 remaining, 2 on Route 66.


There was a motel of this type in the vicinity of Corsicana, Texas on old U.S. Highway 75. (Of course it has long since been razed.)

Was this included in the count ?

There might be others ?

There was also a restaurant with a tall oil derrick on it in this vicinity.
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