I live off of Colfax Ave, which means I spend a lot of time marveling at old motel neon signs that once beckoned tourists to rest their weary heads. More and more of these motels are becoming extinct, due to the fact that the establishments themselves are no longer favored by the city of Aurora or Denver. I was curious about the glory days when the motels along Colfax worked to outshine one another. My little search brought me to the photo shown below. A mini shopping center I am very familiar with once held the very first Holiday Inn in Colorado.
Growing up I’ve never thought much of the Holiday Inn brand. They never seemed different from any other hotel chain you would find across the country. At one time though, the Holiday Inn name meant something, they were called “The Nation’s Innkeeper” and later “The World’s Innkeeper” for a reason.
Kemmons Wilson, came up with the idea to create a motel chain that delivered affordable world-class service in 1952. He was inspired by a less than stellar road trip that he took with his family to Washington D.C. a year earlier. The motels across the country charged outrageous prices for families and lacked in comfort and warmth. He decided to open his version of the perfect family motel in Memphis, Tennessee and by 1972 there were over 1,400 locations worldwide.
The motel chain was named after the Bing Crosby film “Holiday Inn”. In order to live up to its name, Wilson created motels & hotels with spacious rooms, swimming pools, colored TVs, onsite restaurants, conference rooms, state of the art reservation system, and most importantly, children stayed for free. Wilson’s chain of motels helped set the standard for the industry. Holiday Inn motels were strategically placed within 10 minutes of any airport and a family could reach any Holiday Inn location within a day’s drive.
Holiday Inn wasn’t just for families, the chain of motels also had a profound impact on pop culture. The strategic placement of Holiday Inns made them a popular choice for many touring performers. Elton John, Jimmy Buffet, and Neil Diamond each wrote a song about their Holiday Inn experiences.
The once iconic colorful Holiday Inn neon sign could be found coast to coast and became the brand’s logo. This was well before logos became a standard for most companies and guests had the chance to take a piece of the Holiday Inn home with them in one form or another.
As car road trips began to die out, luxury hotels became the focus and Holidomes became the big Holiday Inn offering. Rooms would surround these entertainment centers that featured an indoor pool, bars, pinball games, and different types of lawn games. These luxurious hotels were especially popular in colder climates where residents couldn’t necessarily go on a getaway to a more tropical climate.
By the 1980s the brand began to lose its market dominance and changes were made to modernize the brand for a new generation. The iconic Holiday Inn logo was changed and the iconic signs were taken down, so they could be replaced with something less costly and flashy.
Today, the Holiday Inn name still thrives, but the iconic motels from midcentury America are no more. A brand relaunch in 2008 closed down and demolished the majority of the remaining classic motels.