What is: the signature orange roof but the weather vane is gone and the building is overgrown by vines. Could be anywhere in the USA. This one is at the interchange of the Blue Ridge Parkway and Shenandoah National Park.
What was: The weather vanes on Howard Johnson orange roof helped patrons immediately identify the Howard Johnson’s restaurants and motels. Howard Johnson’s was a pioneer of franchising and the nationwide roadside restaurant, replicating everything from its look to its menus. At its zenith, Howard Johnson’s operated more than 1,000 restaurants.
Howard Deering Johnson opened a drugstore and found the soda fountain was a money maker. He soon found a recipe for great ice cream and created his famous and popular 28 flavors of ice cream. That led to beach stands and ultimately to a restaurant serving clams. The second restaurant was franchised making it one of America’s first franchising agreements.
As America entered WW II there were 200 Howard Johnson’s restaurants. Due to the impact of the war, by 1944, there were only 12 Howard Johnson’s restaurants. Johnson bid for and won exclusive rights to serve drivers at service station turnoffs on the newly built turnpike systems in the 1940s and by 1954, there were 400 Howard Johnson’s restaurants in 32 states.
Howard Johnson’s went public in 1961. By 1975, Howard Johnson’s company had more than 1,000 restaurants in 42 states and Canada. By the late 1970s the decline began, partially because of the oil embargo of 1974,which resulted in reduced travel by car, as well as changing competitive marketplace.
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