April 30, 2011
Struth! First Mo-Tel is no-tel
IN his continuing search for the more weird, wacky and wondrous in the world of travel, David Ellis says its been closed for twenty-years, and today only the original mission-style belltower still stands to mark where the world's first motel was built in California in 1925.
Los Angeles architect, Arthur Heineman built the "Milestone Mo-Tel" at San Luis Obispo, halfway between his home-town and San Francisco, in a time when the 600km journey took a minimum 2-days by car and travellers either overnighted in hotels or camping grounds.
The Milestone Mo-Tel cost US$80,000 to build, and for US$1.25 a night (the average annual income then was $1236) guests got a 2-room bungalow with kitchen and adjoining garage that looked onto a central courtyard with a pool and picnic tables for socialising with other overnighters.
Mr Heineman also had grand plans for a chain of similar mo-tels across America that would comprise blocks of attached apartments rather than bungalows, and with parking right at the front door, together with restaurants and mini-markets. But they never came to fruition and the world's first over-sized "motel" closed in 1991 as motorists opted for newer, smaller and cheaper versions of motels as we know them today.
The Milestone Mo-Tel is owned by the Apple Farm Inn that's right next door in San Luis Obispo. Book yourself a night there, and you can have a sticky-beak at the belltower and few other remains of its famous and historic neighbour.