Historic Memphis Motels

 ...and some not so historic?      


Trains were the means of Long distance travel at the turn of the century.  The advent of the automobile changed all that - especially when Ford's Model-T rolled off the assembly lines in 1908.  Suddenly, those with average means could travel on their own.  Because they were often on a tight budget, they needed cheap places to overnight.  Thus Rooming Houses, Camp Grounds, and Rustic Cabins became common.  But the concept of MOTELS came when the US Interstate was established in the 1920s.  These highways allowed travelers to drive long distances and because they couldn't find lodging in the suburbs, had to drive into town to over-night.  Thus motor hotels began popping up by the interstates and in the suburbs.  These first motels were strictly Mom and Pop establishments.  No guarantees.  The first motel may be Milestone Motel of San Luis Obispo, California, in 1925.  Eventually Mom and Pop joined motel associations which gave travelers assurances that they could enjoy high standards.  Enter Kemmons Wilson.   The true concept of motels actually began to decline when he introduced Holiday Inns throughout the country.  Previously motorists used motels for a quick overnight stay.  Now, suddenly motels  offered rooms, parking, food, swimming pools, and entertainment.


Motels A  -  H

Most of the Postcards on this page are in the collection of Dave French.  Click on small photos to enlarge them. 

Adminal Benbow

Adminal Benbow

Adminal Benbow

Adminal Benbow

Albert Pick Motor Inn

Bel Air


Casey's (Rosecourt)


       Casey's 1950 Crescent Lake Crescent Lake 1950 Crescent Lake 1960

Crystal - Bellevue

Ditty Wah Ditty Downtown Downtowner

Executive Plaza      

Green Acres

Harbin's - 1930 Harbin's - 1937

Harbin's Postcard

Harbin's aerial view

Hester's   Hi-Way Tourist Home 
The Holiday Inn Story

Holiday Inn was the nation's first motel chain and was founded in Memphis by Kemmons Wilson in 1952.  The first inn was located on Summer Avenue, which was then the main highway to Nashville.  Wilson came up the the idea after a family trip to Washington D.C. during which he was disappointed by the quality and consistency provided by roadside motels.  By 1957 the chain was franchised and followed his tenet that all Holiday Inn properties should be standardized, clean, predictable, family-friendly and readily accessible to road travellers.  By 1968 there were 1000 Holiday Inns.  The chain dominated the market.  By 1972, there were over 1,400 Holiday Inns worldwide.  Kemmons Wilson sold his interest in 1990.

Note:  That first Holiday Inn on Summer Av?  This being Memphis, of course it was demolished in the early 1990s.

      First Holiday Inn First Holiday Inn - 1954 First Holiday Inn HI - Central-Union

Holiday Inn

HI - Downtown -3rd
The Great Sign
Holiday Inn JUNIOR

HI - Lamar

HI - Midtown - 1960s HI - Midtown - Union  
Leahy's Tourist Court

Leahy's Tourist Court, Motel Court, and Trailer Park, 3070 Summer Avenue - one of the more famous Motels in Memphis, and so many don't remember why it's famous.  It was the Memphis home to James Jones in 1949-50, while he wrote the National Book Award-winning "From Here to Eternity.  The book is now ranked #62 on the list of "100 best novels".  Jones' last novel "Whistle" was based on his hospital stay in Memphis recovering from surgery on an ankle he injured during WW2.

Leahy's Leahy's Leahy's Leahy's - Office

Lorraine Motel

Walter Bailey purchased this complex of buildings in 1945 and renamed it for his wife Loree and the song Sweet Lorraine.  During the years of segregation in Memphis, it was an upscale accommodation that catered to a black clientele.  Bailey added a second floor and then drive up access for more rooms, converting the name from Lorraine Hotel to Lorraine Motel.  Its guests included Ray Charles, Lionel Hampton, Aretha Franklin, Ethel Waters, Otis Redding, and The Staple Singers.  In 1968, Dr. Martin Luther King was assassinated outside Room 306.  In 1982, the Motel complex became the National Civil Rights Museum.


Motels L  -  Z



Linden Lodge





Rebel 1950




Shelby Shell Lake Sheraton



Silver Horseshoe Silver Horseshoe

 Town Park 1960

Town Park
Travelodge Downtown  1950s

Travelodge Downtown

 White House  



<>    Vintage Photos, Recent Photos, and Memorabilia of Memphis Motels  <>


Lorraine Ashtray



Holiday Ashtray




Holiday Key


Leahy's Brochure


1976 HI Ad

1953 Holiday Inn Menu


1960 Menu Cover and Menu 1960 Magazine 1960 Ad   Author James Jones


Harbin Dairy

 Benbow Key

Admiral Benbow Matchbooks

 Holiday Inn Matchbook

Holiday Inn...Jr.


Harbin's Pitcher      

Town Park Menu






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The "Historic-Memphis" website would like to acknowledge and thank the following for their contributions which helped make this website possible:  Memphis Public Library, Memphis University Library, Memphis Law Library, Memphis Commercial Appeal, Memphis Press Scimitar, Shelby County Register of Deeds, Memphis City Schools, Memphis Business Men's Club, Memphis Chamber of Commerce, Memphis City Park Commission, Memphis Film Commission, Carnival Memphis, Memphis Historical Railroad Page, Memphis Heritage Inc, Beale Street Historic District, Cobblestone Historic District, Memphis Historic Districts, Vance Lauderdale Family Archives, Tennessee State Archives, Library of Congress, Kemmons Wilson Family, Richard S. Brashier, Lee Askew, George Whitworth, Woody Savage and many individuals whose assistance is acknowledged on the pages of their contributions.  Special thanks to Memphis Realtor, Joe Spake, for giving us carte blanche access to his outstanding collection of contemporary Memphis photos.

We do not have high definition  copies of the photos on these pages.  If anyone wishes to secure high definition photos,  you'll have to contact the photographer  or the collector.  (To avoid any possibility of contributing to SPAM, we do not maintain a file of email addresses for anyone who contacts us).



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