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The World's First Motel

The Motel Inn

By Shannon Bowdey

At the end of Monterey Street in San Luis Obispo is an iconic spot called The Motel Inn. It is the very first Motel in the world and it’s located right here in our beautiful San Luis Obispo County. Of course, there have always been Hotels but when people first started driving it would sometimes take a weary traveler two to three days to get from Los Angeles to San Francisco due to road conditions and the speed of cars. If the traveler did not have a set reservation at a hotel, they would either have to sleep in their car or set up campsite somewhere. That wasn’t until December 12, 1925 that a Pasadena Architect and developer by the name of Arthur S. Heineman came up with the idea of a Motel. It would be a place where the traveler could show up without a reservation and rent a room for $1.25 per night with a shower to stay in with their car close by.

Located at 2223 Monterey St in San Luis Obispo, it was the site our local radio station KVEC operated out of these buildings in the 1960’s. Unfortunately, due to its disrepair, much of the Motel was torn down in 2006 only leaving one free standing wall and the mission style bell tower. There is one building remaining on the property that is currently used as an administrative office for the nearby Apple Farm Hotel.

Heineman constructed the Motel Inn at a cost of $80,000 in the Spanish Style architect that resembles a California Mission. He had plans to build a chain of 18 motels all within a day’s travel from each other approximately 150 to 200 miles apart from Washington through California. The great depression hit and quelled those plans.

When you are driving on the 101 through San Luis Obispo, take a look at the towering sign that still stands with the Motel Inn and the words “The World’s First Motel” on it. We have this iconic spot right in our very own county.

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