We are suddenly at the height of summer and I’ve been trying to squeeze in all of the classic summer activities. One of the items at the top of the summer list? Road trips. The road trip in America has been an evolution (I mean just look how far you could get from New York in a day back in 1800! Spoiler: not far). Today you can drive through states at a fairly fast pace in an air conditioned car and listen to music and podcasts the whole way. However, it wasn’t long ago that a road trip was a great adventure and the trip, itself, was half the destination. Think drives like Route 66, the Columbia River Highway, or the Lincoln Highway. Those were road trips.
Motels sprang up across the United States to host the early automobile tourists, and many of these motels today exhibit an irresistible charm. They took extra care to be comfortable and often took on themes to be noticeable and inviting.
The Scott Shady Court in Winnemucca, Nevada, is one of my favorite examples of these early 20th century motels. Originally Scott Shady Camp, this motel was built in 1928 by Swiss immigrants and was an all-in-one service station, grocery store, and auto court. Several buildings have been added over the years and the grocery store and service station are no longer, but, amazingly, the motel is still operated by the same family. Painted names above many of the rooms evoke the possible California destinations of drivers through, and the gabled roofs suggest a private space, personalized for the traveler.
There isn’t much between Salt Lake City, Utah, and Reno, Nevada. It might be tempting to just stay on the highway, blasting the AC and cruising on through towards California. But in Winnemucca, in the midst of the mountains and valleys of the Great Basin, you’ll find a piece of early 20th century history, and you can still stay there.
Sources and further reading:
Check out the Scott Shady Court on their website, here.
The Motel in America has good information on the history of motels, and has lots of great pictures.
If you’re interested in tourism, you can’t beat Hal K. Rothman’s book, Devil’s Bargains: Tourism in the Twentieth Century American West.