Why Some Come to Sedalia to Stay at the Old Holiday Inn
I was scrolling through the pictures of a Facebook group I'm a member of, Old, Seedy, and Vintage Hotels and Motels when I started seeing some pictures of a hotel that seemed familiar. It only took a picture of the atrium to realize I was looking at a little bit of hotel nostalgia right here in Sedalia. No, it wasn't the Hotel Bothwell. It was the Best Western State Fair Inn. And for some fans of classic roadside hotels, it's a reason to visit Sedalia.
On Facebook there's groups for almost anything, including those of us that have an interest in hotels and motels. There's the Old, Seedy, and Vintage Hotels and Motels group. And there's also another group I belong to called The Holiday Inn Great Sign.
The Holiday Inn Great Sign group is billed as a place to "share your memories of it and the world famous hotel chain that Kemmons Wilson established in 1952. Discussions regarding other vintage roadside images and brands are also welcome!" And the Old, Seedy, and Vintage Hotels and Motels group is about "vintage, Dilapidated and downtrodden lodging in the USA."
I got interested, like many in these groups, from the old family car trips. For us, yearly vacations out east to visit my Grandmother in Connecticut or my Dad's family in Chicago. And our end of summer road trips to Kansas City or Milwaukee.
I remember gawking at The Great Sign, Holiday Inn's huge Neon and Chaser arrow sign, at a Holiday Inn in Clearfield, Pennsylvania when we stopped there one night. I remember being fascinated by this underground tunnel at the Ramada Sands hotel between buildings in Milwaukee. And being creeped out staying at this Bates like motel with my parents in Cheshire, Connecticut after we couldn't get a room at the Howard Johnson's.
It's the memories of all these places. And picking up brochures for Holiday Inn's, Ramada's and Howard Johnson's for other towns and cities that got me interested in hotel signs, brands, logos and architecture.
The Best Western State Fair Inn is an example of the classic exterior corridor Holiday Inn. Ross Walton, an administrator of The Holiday Inn Great Sign Facebook group and an expert on Holiday Inn's history, says it looks like a late 50's, early 60's design by Memphis Architect William Bond. At some point the Sedalia hotel was enclosed to create what a couple of long time Sedalia residents told me was a Holidome. Holiday Inn's big indoor family amusement area complete with a pool.
These days old Holiday Inn's, like the current Best Western State Fair Inn, are becoming rarer and rarer. While some seek out grand old hotels like the Hotel Bothwell or a restored mom and pop motel on Route 66 for a unique lodging experience. Some of us seek out a hotel that started life as a Holiday Inn.
There's not much kitsch or opulence to these old Holiday Inn's. In many cases it's a clean, affordable, place to lay your head on a pillow. An affordable option for those who spend a lot of nights in hotels for their job. Or retirees or families who want to save a few bucks for other things on their vacation.
Yet, for some of us, the floor to ceiling windows. The squat two floor architecture. And the smell of chlorine from the pool when you walk into the atrium is much more than an affordable hotel with a free breakfast. It's the memories of family road trips. Squabbling with your sibling in the back seat. Sandwiches and sodas packed in a cooler for the long drive. Jumping into the hotel pool on a hot day. And so much more.
And if you squint your eyes long enough looking at where the Holiday Inn Great Sign used to be, you can almost see it lit up in all it's glory.