What is: the fenced in pool in the middle of the motel parking lot. Vegetation growing through the concrete. Santa Rosa, New Mexico

What was: In the 1930’s, hotels began having pools built as marketing tools. The Biltmore Hotel in Coral Gables, Florida was one of the first and certainly one of the most historic in the United States to add a pool. As motels emerged to serve the American traveling public after WWII, pools became one of the added bonuses, to lure and attract customers.

By the 1950s and 1960s, the pinnacle of the motel industry in the United States, older mom-and-pop motor hotels added newer amenities such as swimming pools or color TV (a luxury in the 1960s). The main roads into major towns became a sea of orange or red neon proclaiming VACANCY (and later COLOR TV, air conditioning, or a swimming pool) seeking precious visibility on crowded highways.

In 1951, Memphis residential developer Kemmons Wilson, after being disillusioned with the wide variations of quality of motels during a family vacation, built the Holiday Inn chain – based on a standardized experience across the country that would include TV, air conditioning, a restaurant, and a pool.

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