Landmark Lodge Motel Sign

Landmark Lodge Motel Sign • Fort Worth, Texas. © 2019 Michael Karl Witzel

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Title: Landmark Lodge Motel Sign
Archive: Michael Witzel Roadside America Collection
Copyright: © 2019 Michael Karl Witzel, All Rights Reserved

In America, the motel marquee sign is perhaps the last remaining vestige of the classic age of neon artistry.

Survivors may still be found along roads like Route 66, the Lincoln Highway, and Highway 80 in Fort Worth, Texas. Before the superhighway off-ramped American roadside culture into oblivion, it was the two-laned U.S. routes routed commercial traffic in and out of cities.

Along these corridors, hotels, motels, and tourist courts thrived. To get the attention on the motorist speeding past, many installed elaborate signs, complete with swooping and blinking neon. A bold and curved arrow became the focal point. It pointed up and over itself, leading the eyes to the Motel brand name and structure itself. The most memorable of these magnificent marquees was the “great sign” used by Holiday Inn from the 1950s to the 1970s, designed by sketch artists Gene Barber and Roland Alexander.

When founder Kemmons Wilson departed the company in 1982, the elaborate sign was abandoned in favor of backlit plastic. Today, only a few intact examples survive, one at the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan. Imitators like the Landmark Lodge continue to defy the onslaught of change, burning brightly along the American roadside for everyone that takes the time to look.

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