Cabins for Rent—Nightly Rates Only
As more people took to the road, clusters of roadside businesses sprang up to accommodate motorists’ needs. By 1925, many tourists stayed in roadside cabins rather than at campsites or hotels. Hotel operators, worried that cabins were undermining their business, warned that the cabins were dens of vice and danger. FBI director J. Edgar Hoover claimed that criminals used tourist cabins as hideouts. Still, auto courts became more and more popular. But as motorists began to look for consistency along the road, they patronized chain restaurants and motels instead of family-owned businesses.
Ring’s Rest, located about 20 miles north of Washington, D.C., was one of many small tourist courts scattered along U.S. 1 from Maine to Florida. The Ringe family rented out four wooden cabins and owned a roadside store with gasoline pumps. Miles from the nearest town, the Ringe family lived within earshot of highway traffic but in relative isolation. The only neighboring buildings were a general store, a railroad station, and a roadhouse.
Tourist cabin at Ring’s Rest, U.S. 1, Muirkirk, Maryland, about 1930Gift of Fred E. Ringe Jr. and Rosemary A. Ringe
Comfort, cleanliness, and clientele varied greatly at mom-and-pop tourist cabins, and motorists could not always find satisfactory lodgings on the road. Some cabin owners joined referral organizations that promised higher standards—as did the few chains of franchised cabins or courts that appeared before World War II. After the war, motel chains such as Holiday Inn, Howard Johnson, and Best Western set a new standard for lodging, removing the guesswork and worry from long-distance automobile travel, as well as the local flavor and personal touches.