Johnson's Restaurants were well established along the nations highways
by the middle of the twentieth century when the first Howard Johnson's
Motor Lodge was franchised in 1953. Believed to have been influenced
by his son, Howard B., Howard D. had already seen the success of
motels which had been built adjacent to his restaurants and a plan
was outlined to make Howard Johnson's a household name in lodging
too. As early as 1950 an article in Architectural Record
speculated that it was time for there to be a national motel chain,
and that the Howard Johnson Company would be the most appropriate
candidate to enter the field!
would have thought that Howard D. Johnson would have learned from
his restaurant experience the importance of having a standard image,
which of course should have incorporated the orange roof among other
details, but when this first Motor Lodge opened on December 3, 1953
it had none of the design features that came to distinguish Howard
Johnson's Motor Lodges. You see, it was a pre-existing Mt. Vernon-esque
motel adjacent to a Howard Johnson's Restaurant, and it was merely
"converted" with the placement of signage and a weathervane!
Of course back in middle 1950s, the whole idea of a motel chain
was a novel notion with no model to follow (Holiday Inn while it
existed by this time had not yet devised a successful franchising
scheme nor did it necessarily have a standardized building plan).
With some trial and error, the more or less standard Motor Lodge
design wouldn't fully arrive until about 1960.