Dec. 12: World’s first motel opens on this date in 1925

Postcard of the Motel Inn, public domain, from Flickr.

On Dec. 12, 1925 the Motel Inn (originally known as the Milestone Mo-Tel) – widely considered the first motel in the world – opened in San Luis Obispo, Calif. It charged $1.25 per night per room.

With the increase in the number and popularity of cars, travelers were starting to take trips that previously were impossible. But while most big cities already had hotels, there weren’t yet accommodations for these road travelers. Many were forced to sleep in their cars or camp overnight during multi-day trips. Arthur and Alfred Heineman proposed a chain of motor-hotels, with the first to be on the side of the highway between San Francisco and Los Angeles.

While motels are now considered cheap overnight stays, the first mo-tel, as it was called, was luxurious for the time. It was built as a number of small bungalows with private garages. The plan was that each of the motor inns would include laundry and maid service, a playground and a restaurant. The planned chain never panned out, as other businessmen jumped on the opportunity and opened their own motels – often with cheaper rates.

Today, the Motel Inn is closed and owned by the Apple Farm Inn next door. A remodel and reopening are planned, including a museum dedicated to the history that started there. In the meantime, around the world, travelers now use thousands of roadside motels for quick accommodations.