A Pictorial Blog of Things I Make,
Items I Collect, Architecture I Love,
and Other Stuff

Thursday, January 20, 2011

A Salute to the Holiday Inn Sign

 The Holiday Inn sign is one of those things that was once everywhere and then all of a sudden nowhere.

 But unlike the telephone booth or the Fotomat kiosk, the signs exited the roadscape not because they were obsolete. 

Instead, they checked out because corporate killjoys came to consider them too costly. 

The Great Sign, as it is known to commercial archaeologists, had 1,500 feet of neon tubing and more than 500 incandescent light bulbs. This Holiday Inn was in Monroe, La., near my hometown.
The sign was designed by sketch artists Gene Barber and Rowland Alexander of Memphis's Bolton & Sons Sign Company in 1952.

 That was the year the first Holiday Inn opened in Memphis on Summer Avenue. This Great Sign was in Memphis on Poplar Avenue.

 Eddie Bluestein, architect of the first Memphis motel, dubbed it Holiday Inn as a meant-to-be-jokey quotation of the 1942 Bing Crosby film. When I was growing up I had no idea the name had anything to do with a movie any more than I knew that Duncan Hines was a pioneer in restaurant ratings for travelers. I thought it was just a name for cake mixes. This Holiday Inn was in Birmingham, Ala.

 I have accumulated quite a number of post cards from Holiday Inns. This one was in Shreveport, La.

 Here's another postcard from Memphis, from the 1970s, when Holiday Inn was at its peak with 1,400 locations and the chain's Memphian founder, Kemmons Wilson, was on the cover of Time magazine.  

Starting in 1982 the Great Signs were pulled down and cut into pieces for scrap, around the time Holiday Inn surrendered its supremacy as The Nation's Innkeeper to an ever-crowded field of upstart inns named Red Roof, Days and Comfort. This Great Sign was in Texarkana, Ark.

From one of my scrapbooks of Americana is this photograph I took in Dearborn, Mich., where at Greenfield Village, the nation's largest indoor-outdoor history complex, this Holiday Inn sign will blaze, it is hoped, for a neon eon.
To look at a related post, visit: Motel Mementos
And for another post about roadside icons, visit: Selections From My Collection of Stuckey's Post Cards


  1. Whoever designed that sign really nailed it because it is still used today. I love those old photos of Holiday Inn.

  2. Wow! Those signs bring back a lot of wonderful memories traveling across the USA as a child with my family.. The best days of my life. I loved staying at Holiday Inns and looking out the window at the great sign.