Looking Back: Those Old Motels Along Monterey Road
Image: The Whitehouse Inn located at 3030 Monterey Road. Photos ©Ralph M. Pearce.
Driving down Monterey Road the other day, I was struck by all of the new construction. Since the early 1960s, the road has been a collection of light industrial businesses along with retail stores, old motels, and an occasional restaurant or house. The old motels have always held the most fascination for me, as they harken back to a day when Monterey Road was a major thoroughfare for travelers.
Image: The Palm Tree Inn Motel located at 2724 Monterey Highway. Photos ©Ralph M. Pearce.
Monterey Road began as a stage coach route in the 1850s, which connected San Jose to Monterey. The towns of Morgan Hill and Gilroy grew up as stage stops along the route. The road includes portions of the historic El Camino Real (Royal Road) which was a 600 mile road that once connected California's twenty-one Spanish missions. In the early 1900s, the road became part of the state highway system and eventually part of US Route 101. By the early 1980s, US 101 was redirected to a new freeway to the east. Monterey Road continues as an arterial road from San Jose (as a continuation of South First Street where it crosses Alma Avenue) to the south county.
Image: The California Motel located at 1706 Monterey Highway. In 1949, it was listed as O.C. Owens Auto Court. Photos ©Ralph M. Pearce.
Following World War II, motor courts (motels) with attached cabins began to appear, often with a U-shaped design featuring a central landscaped area or swimming pool. Although many of these motor court style motels are now gone, many still remain in San Jose, with a number of them along Monterey Road.
Then and Now
Image: Old postcards show the 101 Motel as separate cottages, then later as joined cottages, and then finally the joined cottages as they appear today under the name Sands Motel at 1787 Monterey Road. Final photo ©Ralph M. Pearce.
Image: The Casa Linda Motel located at 1669 Monterey Road. The wagon wheel is gone and part of the sign, but for the most part looks the same as it always has. Second photo ©Ralph M. Pearce.
Image: The Travelers Rest Motel is located at 15 Floyd Street (and S. First, which continues as Monterey Road). Another motel where it seems that the sign has changed more than anything else. Second photo ©Ralph M. Pearce.
Other Surviving Motor Courts
Image: The Charles Motel is located at 1036 N. Fourth Street. Photo ©Ralph M. Pearce.
Image: The Western Motel is located at 2250 El Camino Real in Santa Clara. Photo ©Ralph M. Pearce.
Image: The White Way Motel is located at 1135 Oakland Road in San Jose. Photo ©Ralph M. Pearce.
Further Reading in the California Room
- Motel California by Heather M. David
- King Library Digital Collections Database: Motel
- California Room Index: Motels
- California Room City Directories and Phone Books