5.12.10

Krisel's Modern Motel: The Imperial '400' Motel

As folks began to venture forth across America during the mid-century years of the fifties, the need for accommodations grew also.  The nation's burgeoning highway system, now expanding rapidly with Eisenhower's nascent interstate network, saw the need for affordable lodging.

According to historian John Crosse, "companies such as Howard Johnson's, TraveLodge and Los Angeles-based Imperial '400' Motels saw an opportunity to fill that void and went on a nation-wide building spree."  Mr. Crosse documents the rise of the Imperial '400' Motel on his Southern California Architectural History blog.  He notes that the "Imperial '400' took note of the award-winning and extremely popular tract housing designed by Southern California architects Palmer & Krisel and in 1959 commissioned them to design a prototype motel and the rights to build using their design on four other sites."


Rendering for the prototype for the Imperial '400' Motel chain, Palmer & Krisel, 1959 (courtesy of the William Krisel Archive, Getty Research Institute)


William Krisel's signature butterfly roof design figured prominently in the architecture of the Imperial '400' Motel.  Crosse points out that this "design concept proved so wildly successful that Imperial immediately launched it's franchise campaign and began building motels with virtually the same design all across the United States."    


I am fortunate to live near one of these mid-century modern motels in State College, Pennsylvania.  Originally built in the '60s, the following Imperial '400' Motel still carries the '400' signage.  I snapped the following photos after briefly discussing the motel's history with the current owners.


Source, Mark Henderson

Source, Mark Henderson

You can find more Imperial '400' Motel photos and information at Agility Nut's Roadside Architecture, and Crosse's Southern California Architectural History blog.  Enjoy!

6 comments:

  1. Fantastic post! I am in the process of research our Imperial 400 Motel in Sacramento - which stood next to a Armet & Davis design coffee shop http://eichlerific.blogspot.com/2010/01/more-googie-goodness-eppies-restaurant.html Unfortunately, both the motel and restaurant have been altered. The one near you looks fab!

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  2. Thanks! I am lucky to have found such great sources such as John Crosse's Southern California Architectural History blog and Roadside Architecture. I love your posts as well! Great post on such a classic Googie coffee shop.

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  3. How neat! Isn't it funny how a little thing like the butterfly roof can change the a building's look from cookie cutter to identifiably "atomic". I've been chasing some vintage roadside motels still standing/not renovated in Tennessee...it's fun to see somebody else with the same eye. :) Thanks for sharing!

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  4. You are so correct about the "atomic" effect of the butterfly roof. I love 'em! Please post pics on your cool blog of any cool motels your encounter. Thanks!

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