Hiway Host Motel
The Hiway Host Motel, built in 1954 as the Holiday Inn-Bessemer also known as Holiday Inn West, is an 80-room motel located at 4301 Bessemer Super Highway (U.S. Highway 11) between Bessemer and Birmingham..
The hotel was developed by Richard Hall Brown of the B-D Development Co., developers of the Broadmoor subdivision. He obtained franchise rights from the 2-year-old Holiday Inn chain of Memphis, Tennessee in 1953. J. A. Batch of New York City was an investor in the venture. He also credited Bessemer city officials and the Bessemer Chamber of Commerce for helping in the project's development. He selected an 850-foot by 350-foot site adjoining Broadmoor, and directly across from the Bessemer Coal, Iron & Land Co. office and Carl's Motel & Cafe. Brown commissioned the Real Estate Research Corp. to analyze its suitability before announcing construction in February 1954.
The analysts recommended a 100-room motel. As preliminary plans were developed, Brown decided to start with an 80-room complex with allowances for future expansion, noting that it would be the largest motel in the district and the only one of its kind in Alabama. The building was constructed by the H. N. Donahoo Contracting Co. Dixie Neon fabricated the motel's massive sign at a cost of $14,000.
Some of the units were 2- to 3-room suites and all were equipped with wall-to-wall carpeting, radio, television and background music. A special "bridal suite" was marketed to newlyweds. A sitter service was provided for children, as well as a kennel area for pets. A shuttle service operated between the motel and the associated Holiday Beach attraction with swimming, fishing, boating, picnic facilities and a dance pavilion.
The $500,000 air-conditioned motel featured an assembly room large enough for a 300-seat banquet or 400-person meeting, a swimming pool, a playground, and indoor and outdoor recreation areas with board games, shuffleboard, tennis, badminton, carpet golf and croquet. The motel also housed a gift and candy shop, a barber shop, a drug store and a 24-hour service station.
A formal open house prior to opening was held on Wednesday–Friday November 2–4, 1954, accompanied by a special display of the 1955 Chrysler automobile line-up coordinated by area dealers. "Queen Bess" Carolyn Early served as official hostess. Wesley Barrett was trained in Memphis before assuming his duties as manager of the motel.
The motel restaurant was a second location of La Paree, operated by Michael Matsos, who sold the prior location on 5th Avenue North in downtown Birmingham to chef and partner Bill Demoes. Matsos later changed the name to Michael's.
Louis Woods succeeded Barrett as manager in 1956. That same year, Brown had 28 "cabana style" units added around the motel's swimming pool at a cost of $190,000. The Alabama Motel Association was chartered at a meeting at the Holiday Inn on January 18, 1957. The Optimist Club of West End was chartered there on February 27 of the same year.
In 1977 the motel was operated as the Holiday Motel and was in use as short-term apartments for out-of-town construction workers. That year a fire which started near a laundry room at the rear of the motel in the afternoon destroyed about 50 rooms and severely damaged 14 others. No one was immediately injured by the fire, but one woman was hospitalized for smoke inhalation and a man suffered a heart attack possibly brought about by the incident. Residents were able to move a few cars away from the fire.
In 1978 the motel was operating as the Holiday Host Motel.
By 1980 the motel was owned by Hiway Host Motels Inc. and was managed by Mary Alice Lyon. That February the section which burned three years earlier, having only been partially rebuilt, caught fire again.
- "Swank motel to be built between city, Bessemer." (February 16, 1954) The Birmingham News, p. 1
- "Holiday Inn makes its formal bow with three-day open house." (November 16, 1954) The Birmingham News, p. 24
- Loeb, Francis (February 1956) "How One Motel Franchise System Works." Tourist Court Journal
- "Holiday Inn Motel to be state's largest." (February 20, 1956) The Birmingham News, p. 32
- Patterson, Bruce (August 22, 1977) "Several hospitalized after destructive motel fire." Birmingham Post-Herald
- Cook, Christopher (February 2, 1980) "Fire again damages Bessemer motel." Birmingham Post-Herald, p. B5