America's Main Street Hotels

Transiency and Community in the Early Auto Age

  • Author(s): Jakle, John A., and Keith A. Sculle
  • Series:
  • Imprint: Univ Tennessee Press
  • Publication Date: 2009-06-30
  • Status: Active
  • Available in Paper: Price $29.95 | Buy Now

In small cities and towns across the United States, Main Street hotels were iconic institutions. They were usually grand, elegant buildings where families celebrated special occasions, local clubs and organizations honored achievements, and communities came together to commemorate significant events. Often literally at the center of their communities, these hotels sustained and energized their regions and were centers of culture and symbols of civic pride. America’s main street hotels catered not only to transients passing through a locality, but also served local residents as an important kind of community center.

This new book by John A. Jakle and Keith A. Sculle, two leading experts on the nation_s roadside landscape, examines the crucial role that small- to mid-sized city hotels played in American life during the early decades of the twentieth century, a time when the automobile was fast becoming the primary mode of transportation. Before the advent of the interstate system, such hotels served as commercial and social anchors of developing towns across the country. America’s Main Street Hotels provides a thorough survey of the impact these hotels had on their communities and cultures.

The authors explore the hotels’ origins, their traditional functions, and the many ups and downs they experienced throughout the early twentieth century, along with their potential for reuse now and in the future. The book details building types, layouts, and logistics; how the hotels were financed; hotel management and labor; hotel life and customers; food services; changing fads and designs; and what the hotels are like today.

Brimming with photographs, this book looks at hotels from coast to coast. Its exploration of these important local landmarks will intrigue students, scholars, and general readers alike, offering a fascinating look back at that recent period in American history when even the smallest urban places could still look optimistically toward the future.

John A. Jakle is emeritus professor of geography at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. Keith A. Sculle is the head of research and education for the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency. He and Professor Jakle have coauthored The Gas Station in America; Motoring: The Highway Experience in America; Fast Food: Roadside Restaurants in the Automobile Age; Signs in America’s Auto Age: Signatures of Landscape and Place; and Lots of Parking: Land Use in a Car Culture. With Jefferson S. Rogers, they are also coauthors of The Motel in America.