Take a look at the top thumbnail size postcards to your left: the first, an Elite Courts card from the early 1950s, the second, the renamed Elite Motel from later in that decade (click on the images to expand them to full size). Within a brief span of time, the owners adapted to evolving nomenclature and architectural styles demanded by a fickle public. Outside, flat white surfaces and sharp edges give way to a subtler earth tone and curved shapes. As usual, the roadside motel must adapt to changing tastes. However, one thing remains constant in much of the architecture of this period. Before and just after the Second World War, small town business owners across the United States drew from a cultural reservoir of modernism to craft these homes away from home.
Modernism refers to a set of ideals that emerged partially from advances in technology, philosophical celebration of the individual, and the concurrent rhetoric of progress. While Paul Johnson (The Birth of the Modern) and Stephen Toulmin (Cosmopolis) offer foundational readings on this era, I focus on twentieth century popular culture's commodification of 'the modern' in the form of advertisements, artwork, and architecture. I am particularly interested in sites that manage to blur all three, evoking a vision of modernism through mass production, streamlined styling, and nature-defying design. For that reason, I have created this collection of streamlined moderne motels.
While I do not claim copyright over the postcards themselves, I do claim ownership of the scanned images created specifically for this page. You may use these images if you provide full attribution to Andrew Wood. Want some more Deco? Check out my South Bay Deco and Miami Deco sites.