It’s an easy three hour drive to San Luis Obispo from Los Angeles. But that wasn’t always the case. Back in the 1920’s, when Americans were only just discovering the joys of road trips, it was an all day one way road trip with the real adventure beginning at the end of the day when searching for somewhere to stay the night.
With no billboards lining the road touting discounted prices at the local Holiday Inn or Motel 6, travelers had to search for a place to rest their weary bodies. And unless they were willing to fork out for an expensive hotel, they usually ended up pitching a tent at an auto camp or staying in some quirky ’mom and pop’ tourist court.
Then, in 1925, Arthur Heineman came along and built the very first ‘motor hotel’ or ‘mo-tel’ as he originally called it on the edge of Highway. And the rest, as they say, is history.
Costing $80,000, the world’s first motel had 40 one-story bungalows grouped around a courtyard featuring a swimming pool and a restaurant.
Heineman had planned the Motel Inn to be the first of many motels along the length of the West Coast from San Diego to Seattle but the Great Depression intervened and it turned out to be the only motel he ever built.
This landmark motel still stands but is a mere shadow of its former self.
What does remain, however, highlights a bygone era, when everyone from salesmen to celebrities passed through its doors and stayed for the night.