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Homage To The Motel

June 2024
1min read

Motels in America

by John Margolies , Bulfinch, 128 pages.

Is there any American living today who does not find at least a grain of comfort in the idea of a motel? For all their well-established synonymity with roadside seediness, there is something unquenchably cheerful about these children of the automobile, the foursquare doll’s-house cabins, the low run of cinder-block dwellings beneath the neon signs that still advertise FREE TV . John Margolies, a lifelong student of highway vernacular, has assembled a delightful scrapbook of brochures, postcards, and photographs that traces the motel’s evolution from cabin camps to “tourist courts”—often with quite substantial little heated bungalows clustered in a vaguely resortlike configuration—and the rise of the chains, culminating with the hegemony of Holiday Inn, to whose embrace 96 percent of American motel users have yielded.

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