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The Orange Submarine
Portsmouth, N.H. circa 1940s
Portsmouth, N.H. circa 1965
Portsmouth, N.H. spring 1976

Innovative Plan
Photo ca. 1980s: Tim Fillmon
Be sure to visit Tim's site: http://signsofthetimesflorida.blogspot.com/
Clearwater, Florida
 -- 410 U.S. 19 S (20788 U.S. Hwy 19 N)

During the 1960s when the Clearwater Howard Johnson's was opened, the Howard Johnson Company sought ways to maximize its primacy of quality hospitality by utilizing the advantages gained by the economies of scale. The Clearwater HoJo's was the first property where the Company enjoyed ownership and management of both the Motor Lodge and Restaurant.

Alas the benefits of integration were never properly understood or implemented by Howard Johnson management.



Left: Unique in many ways, the Clearwater complex featured an unusual experimental Gate Lodge along with its Restaurant which was dubbed "the Clearwater Plan."

Below: After losing its HJ status, the eye-catching Orange Roof facade of the Gate Lodge was demolished leaving a small flat-roofed lobby for the Sunshine Inn.

Photograph 2001 : Kummerlowe

Ultimate Unrealized
Architectural FORUM, March 1955 p. 162-167: Kummerlowe
Ultimate Designer

Almost by chance the 20th century modernist architect Rufus Nims became involved creating designs for the Howard Johnson Company. His most famous building became known in Company lore as the series '77,' and to HoJo's fans is what this site calls the Nims-Type. That familiar Restaurant building itself served to redefine and refocus Howard Johnson's image in the 1950s as ultimately modern.

Working diligently making architectural plans for the Company from sometime in 1948 until about 1958, Nims devised what he termed the Ultimate Design for a Howard Johnson's Restaurant in 1955. The innovative plan was perhaps too radical a departure from the series '77' and was never built. In a letter to author Philip Langdon (Orange Roofs, Golden Arches) in 1984 Nims wrote with apparent frustration that "we were not allowed to make any improvements to speak of as we went along -- so quit doing the Co.'s work altogether in 1958."

Rufus H. Nims (1913-2005)


Ultimate Design, proposed by Nims but not yet accepted by Johnson, makes more radical changes in traditional appearance: gable is turned end-wise to the street, cupola is removed from the roof and raised like a shield on a spear.
Ultimate Plan proposed by Nims combines all kitchen improvements he developed for various types of Howard Howard Johnson restaurants...Core of kitchen is straight traffic aisle, replacing zigzag isle in the original plan. Straight open core not only reduces steps but gives manager easier supervision of entire kitchen operation.

Architectural FORUM March 1955

Bob's Orange Treats
Ocala-North, FL --photo April 1991: Bob Venditti
Bob: "The place was still very nice; had an upper floor balcony room along interstate. That's my gold Honda Civic parked on the right."
Smithfield, NC --photo May 1991: BobVenditti

Bob: "I always liked how this place was situated off the interstate, and the wide park-like lawn really seemed appealing.

I had a single room in the one-story section which was very comfortable and in good condition, although it seemed a little dated. In the area near the sliders, the floor was dark brown linoleum on which sat a recliner chair. If only they hadn't later boxed in the terrific patios and balconies. Otherwise this place would still be a gem, even with the added stucco embellishments."

Hollywood, FL --photo June 1992: Bob Venditti

Bob: "I needed a place to shower and change for one night--I only had my camera with me to document the motel stay, as I have always done, no other reason..."

Lexington, VA --photo August 1991: Bob Venditti

Bob: "Very nice place to stay while taking the long way to Ohio! I had great pancakes at the dairy bar."


Orange Flashbacks!

Left: Me and my grandmother in 1999 at Wilmington-Concord Pike. Note my FAI era Howard Johnson's polo purchased at the Pittsburgh- Blvd. of the Allies Restaurant.

Remember that not too long ago we could still get authentic fried clams--and better yet, real Howard Johnson's ice cream! Ah, the 1990s, those were the days?...and we didn't even know it!? My August 1999 journey was my last great HJ road trip, for I visited EIGHT operating Howard Johnson's Restaurants in the span of a week (alas they are all gone now).

Wilmington-Concord, DE--photo August 9, 1999: Kummerlowe
Pittsburgh (Blvd. of the Allies) PA--photo August 7, 1999: Kummerlowe
Howard Johnson's Restaurant & Motor lodge: Harrisonburg, Virginia
Harrisonburg , VA--photo 8/13/98 (visited again 8/99): Kummerlowe
Howard Johnson's Restaurant: Wilmington-Kirkwood Hwy. Delaware
Wilmington-Kirkwood, DE--photo August 9, 1999: Kummerlowe
Claymont. DE--photo 1998 (visited again in 8/1999): Kummerlowe
Afton , VA--photo August 13, 1998: Kummerlowe
Millington , MD--photo August 9, 1999: Kummerlowe
Front Royal , VA--photo 8/1998 (visited again in 8/99): Kummerlowe
Lexington, VA--photo August 13, 1999: Kummerlowe Archive
St Louis-Kirkwood, MO--photos August 2000: Kummerlowe


At the onset of my endeavor/adventure to document Howard Johnson's in 1998, I never could have imagined that I was witness to the end of an era. It is difficult to believe that an institution so ingrained in our culture could vanish almost without a trace. For it would seem that with each passing day another HoJo's is closed and demolished. Not that long ago Howard Johnson's was the largest hospitality chain in the world. But now this once ubiquitous roadside landmark fades from America's rear-view mirror, and as we speed off into the uncharted future fewer and fewer orange roofed Restaurants and Motor Lodges remain to serve the hungry and sleepy motoring public.

This site commemorates the Roadside Empire created by Howard D. Johnson, and chronicles with photographs and commentary the story of a once vast organization and its legacy to the American roadscape, and to the hospitality industry. Please browse and enjoy the photographs, and I hope that they rekindle many memories.

"Howard Johnson's -- An American way of life -- convenience, comfort and hospitality for the entire family, at home and away from home." 


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