Remembering the family stay at the ‘Holiday Inn’


In the year 1951, Kemmons Wilson envisioned a family-friendly motel that catered to families traveling across the country on vacation. This idea occurred after a family vacation to Washington D.C., where he encountered uncomfortable shabby hotels that charged extra for each one of his children.

Kemmons lived in Memphis, Tennessee, which is where he opened the first Holiday Inn opened in 1952. Kemmons had planned for his hotel to carefully measure rooms and account for more space, including TVs, pools, and ice machines.

Pop culture actually inspired the name of the now famous hotel chain. The architect that Kemmons was working with sketched ‘Holiday inn’ on the plans he drew up after watching the Bing Crosby movie ‘Holiday Inn.’

The initial hotel was successful, and by the end of the first year, the Holiday Inn had 3 more locations debut featuring signs that read, ‘Holiday Inn of America. The Nation’s Innkeeper.’

The rooms were surprisingly spacious and featured two beds, two chairs, a desk and chair, and a television. The Holiday Inn brand became a name travelers could trust for consistent satisfaction.

In 1952, the cost for a one-night stay in the Holiday Inn was between $4 and $6, making the hotel more accessible to families. Twenty years later, in 1972, Kemmons Wilson was on the cover of ‘Time’ Magazine and boasted over 1400 franchised locations. Kemmons retired in 1979, and there were nearly 1800 locations in at least 50 different countries.

The iconic sign was dubbed ‘The Great Sign.’ Each sign cost 13,000 dollars. Kemmons loved the sign, but it was changed after his departure. There are fewer than 10 of the original locations left while ‘Holiday Inn Express’ replaced most of them.

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