When Motels Were Newer and Grander


Lovely watercolor effect, simple signage and lines, very retro!


From the 1920s to the early 1960s, the automobile led the way to leisurely road trips and the chance for a quick getaway down newly paved  highways across Canada and the U.S.  The cozy roadside motel filled the need  for an affordable, convenient place for the weary driver and family to kick back and relax in relative luxury with then modern conveniences (such as showers in each room, radio, TV and Hi-Fi!), as these vintage postcards attest.

21 responses

  1. I live on Route 9, just off the bottom of that map, north of Plattsburgh. That route goes from Montreal to New York City and is dotted with the remains of motels that once thrived and then died when the interstate was built.

  2. Wow! These series of postcards are very interesting. Wonder what would be the next thing to change, maybe something related to planes?

  3. In the early 80’s, my wife and I stayed at a motel like this that had survived on the east side of the North Cascades Highway in Washington. It was actually a nice change from the sterile hotels of that trip. BTW, you’re right about air travel, NOT glamorous these days.

  4. Oh how I loved those old hotels and how there was a flap that opened from the outside so your breakfast could be “slid” into the kitchenette as you “bounced” off the walls with the excitement of it all! 🙂

  5. I live in the Pacific Northwest but hail from Michigan and recall staying in motels like those pictured on family trips to Houghton in the Upper Peninsula. As a child the motel and even the rooms looked HUGE, the excitement of being somewhere other than home as siblings and I splashed in outdoor pools and bounced off motel walls. Wonderful memories tied with your pictures, thanks Brett

  6. Brings back memories of long family road trips every summer to visit my grand parents in northern Minnesota. In the days of expensive long distance phone service, there was no making of advance
    reservations. We’d start looking for a motel with “Vacancy” at the end of the day. I can remember times when we drove late into the night past “No Vacancy” signs glowing with disappointment for our tired family.

    • That kind of traveling — where you spend the night wherever the road or trail takes you, just like hiking the AT, as I know you’ve done — can be liberating too. But probably anxiety inducing for a family traveling with children.

    • Yes, we always did the same thing, never a reservation. Who knows what town you’ll be in when the road trip itself is what it’s all about? We didn’t always end up in the best places but it was an adventure. My only bad experience was in 2008 when I got a late start in the day in Vermont’s Northern Kingdom first week in October. I went down the interstate almost 150 miles stopping at every exit before finding a motel. Actually a fishing lodge which was very nice.

  7. Pingback: Vintage Quebec: Ox Carts, Dog Carts and Sleighs « O' Canada

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