Once upon a time post-WWII, the American middle class boomed, automobile sales surged and road trips took their first steps into the lore of Americana. The creation of the nation’s interstate system in the 1950s and the burgeoning blacktop wanderlust that followed spurred the beginnings of the iconic roadside motel, providing weary travelers a functional, clean and reliable place to stopover for the night while traveling.
Motels (which originated from the combination of “motor” and “hotel”) were keenly differentiated from their hotel counterparts in that they were generally comprised of one or two floors, no central corridor or elevators and they provided automobile-loving Americans the opportunity to roll right up to their door.
Motels saw their heyday in the 1950s and 1960s but as the highway system evolved over the ensuing decades, freeways were built and the majority of motels were bypassed alongside the towns that contained them. Instead, travelers began staying in the newer, more standardized hotel chains sprouting up alongside the freshly laid pavement. Motels began to deteriorate, shut down and ultimately become relics of a bygone era.
Fast-forward to the last decade and motels are starting to see a resurgence. Americans are yearning for more authentic experiences, an ability to connect to the communities and places they visit and longing for the nostalgia of the past when life seemed simpler. Many savvy hoteliers saw a unique opportunity with these old motor lodges as they provided an affordable, scalable opportunity to build on top of an already established foundation.
“It’s expensive to build from the ground up right now,” said Gavin Burns, head of business development for LOGE Camp, formerly the Entrada Lodge. “We try to embrace the funkiness of the former property and keep those quirks but then refine them to our vision.”
Burns said the location on SW Century Drive was a perfect alignment for LOGE Camp. “We approached the Evert Family [the location’s original owners] early in the history of the LOGE hotels,” he said. “We wanted to be at the center of where outdoor recreation is.” The motel setup lends itself further to this active lifestyle, according to Burns. “People can pull right up to their doors, pull out their gear and be in their rooms in a matter of minutes,” he said. “And in just a few more, be ready to be back out and on the trails.”
Situated right next to public lands and singletrack trails, LOGE Camp is a hip motel basecamp for the outdoors. The simple yet attractive rooms are decked out with products from outdoor gear companies and a partnership with on-site adventure tour company Cog Wild Tours allows guests (and non-guests) to rent bikes and utilize shuttle services to Mt. Bachelor. Additionally, the motel rounds out the offerings with snowshoe, XC ski, sled and paddleboard rentals.
The newest addition to Bend, the Campfire Hotel on 721 NE 3rd Street opened its doors in October 2020. Formerly the Three Sisters Inn, the Campfire focuses on community and nostalgia channeled straight from the hotel’s brainchild, Tod Breslau. Breslau, who is also behind both The Hood River Hotel in the Gorge and Portland’s highly successful Jupiter Motel, said the idea for the Campfire came from his own experiences traveling as a youth with his family.
“The Campfire Hotel is a nod to the great American road trip and to some of my fondest childhood memories of traveling in our trusty station wagon,” Breslau said. “The Campfire experience is about delivering that nostalgic vibe with modern touches and convenience. Check-in, jump in the pool, gather around the fire and meet new friends.”
Breslau said the site was chosen for its central location. “It was just kismet,” he said. “Everything just all came together. The location was available, and it was exactly what we were looking for—close enough to walk downtown and to restaurants, and easy to find.”
The vintage component was important for Breslau and the Campfire is the perfect mix of retro-cool with local interwoven throughout. Central Oregon juniper adorns the property and rooms have nostalgic touches such as rotary style phones and floor to ceiling photos depicting outdoors scenes when wool coats reigned supreme over puffies. The three separate buildings pay homage to the former site by distinguishing themselves as North, Middle and South Sister, and the rooms within have local touches that include Breedlove Guitars.
One of the earliest adopters to the motel renovation trend was longtime Bend family, the Kelleys, who opened the Wall St. Suites (1430 NW Wall Street) in 2013. Having already remodeled another motel on the Oregon Coast, the family saw a unique opportunity to restore a once prominent Bend motel back to its glory. “The Plaza Motel was cutting edge at the time it was built in the 1950s,” said Owner Kelsey Kelley Carson. “It was a big deal—celebrities would even stay there.”
By the early 2000s, however, changes in both ownership and the surrounding neighborhood negatively impacted the business. The Kelleys bought the location in 2011 and completely remodeled the interior, transforming the original thirty-two units into seventeen, fifteen of which are suites. For the Kelleys, the remodel was all about a return to community. “Everything we do, we ask ourselves ‘Is there someone local who does this?’’” said Kelley Carson. “Can we connect our guests to the community in a meaningful way?” Some highlights include locally made Dani Naturals bath products, photography by both Joel Chadd and Toni Toreno, artwork by Sheila Dunn and in-room Metolius Tea and Bend Roasting coffee. Oh, and did we mention Deschutes beer upon check-in?
“When I travel, one of the first things I like to do is have a beer and settle in, so we thought let’s do the same,” said Kelley Carson. “Pair it with some good recommendations for a local restaurant and it provides a richer experience for people and a connection to the local community. That’s what people want when they’re traveling.”