kemmon wilson

Holiday Inn,  c.1950s

Utica, New York 

Hey, did you know that Kemmons Wilson decided to build his own Hotel after being terribly dissappointed by inconsistent and poor quality roadside accomodations after a family road trip? The name Holiday Inn was given to the original hotel by his architect Eddie Bluestein as a joke, in reference to the 1942 musical film,  Holiday Inn, starring Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire. 


The first Holiday Inn opened in 1952 on Summer Ave. in Memphis, Tennessee. By 1956, partners Kemmons Wilson and Wallace E. Johnson had succeeded in opening 22 more of their clean-image motels. A franchising strategy in 1957 brought the number to 100 by the end of the decade. By 1968, there were 1,000.

The Holiday Inn was one of the ultimate killers of the independent motel, but when the franchise started its ascent, it was still very much modelled after the simple roadside motor court. The tired traveler was beckoned with dazzling neon and the promise of a comfortable night’s stay.