January 6, 2016


Before city motels came into existence, there is a brief history on how it had started. During the late 1910s, construction of campgrounds was made for automobile tourists. For tourists who cannot afford to accommodate a hotel, they slept in their cars or built a tent alongside the road. Such were called as auto camps. In 1920s and 1930s, the campgrounds were modernized with restroom facilities, picnic grounds, and running water. Only by a few years in 1920s, auto camps preceded motels. Traditional municipal camp sites were established for tourists to pitch in their own tents. Because of the increasing demands in terms of profits, the public camp grounds were converted into commercial camps.

Arthur Heinemans Motel Inn of San Luis Obispo

The Motel Inn of San Luis Obispo (originally known as the Milestone Mo-Tel) — the first motel in the world was created and built in 1925, in the Spanish Colonial Revival style, now in ruins. It is located on old Highway 101 in northern San Luis Obispo, Central California. Image source

Apart from the auto camps, tourist homes came popular to public as well. These homes were private residences consisting of rooms for travelers. Compared to boarding houses, guests of tourist homes are just passing through and not staying for a period of time. On the early part of the Great Depression era, plenty of tourist homes were opened to the travelers due to the lack of food and lodging during that time.

When the first travel trailer was first introduced to the public in the 1930s, auto camp tourists had employed their cards with roof decks, makeshift kitchens, and beds. Innovatively, the travel trailer came with cabin camp consisting of stable assembly of functions. When the time of Great Depression came – the innovation of travel trailer had brought ideas to property owners to build cabins along the highways for extra profit or income. Some locals had opened tourist homes as well. Hereinafter, the construction of common single-story building in roadside highways was made. This building came to public known as the cabin court or motel as called today.

With the increasing demand of motels, highway networks persistently expanded largely as well. Governments had tried creating employment from the side of this business however the cabin camps or motels were traditional and cannot employ more jobs. In 1935, the city directory in San Diego, California had categorize the motel type accommodation as tourist camps instead wherein a tourist can stay in the cabin camp for a night with only few and small comforts.

As the demand of motels increases after its first introduction to the public, travelers and tourists had aimed for more modern amenities and comfort. Thus, they are demanding for more improved tourist courts or cottage courts for accommodation. However, prices would be much higher because there is already presence of indoor bathrooms, electricity, and sometimes a private carport or garage. The courts are arranged in fascinating clusters in U-shape layout. They are also part of a huge complex consisting of a café, filling station and occasionally a convenience store. There are also other facilities that can be found on the area.

Because of the existence of the motels, the popularity of auto camps started to discontinue after World War II. Its independent operations remained small. As this happens, tourists quickly adopted the idea of motel accommodation. Since then, the homogenized appearance of motels had become a popular to many motorists and travelers.