BACK IN THE DAY
The Holiday Motel is Door County’s first motel, designed and owned by William Paul, owner of the local supper club, the Nautical Inn, and his business partner Myron Krueger. Built-in the Cubist Modern (also known as Modern International) design, it opened its doors on Saturday, May 31, 1952.
According to newspaper reports of the time, the two emphasized the “modern” detail and amenities such as a ventilated phone booth for business travelers, fire-proof and chip-proof Simmons furnishings, glass-block windows, photo-mirrors, tile bathrooms, theater-lit hallways and stairs, and white stucco and cement block construction—the newest methods of the day.
The Holiday Motel embraces the post-Motor Court design, which was popular at a time in American travel history when guest room views onto the on-site private parking was a major attraction to travelers. In the early part of the twentieth century, there were few choices for travelers—most stayed at campgrounds, cottage courts, or tourist homes. The Holiday Motel’s success led to the addition of the Holiday Diner in 1953, which served a full breakfast menu.
Interestingly, the Holiday Inn franchise (unaffiliated with the Holiday Motel) was launched only three months later in Memphis with the promise of properties that were standardized, clean, predictable, family-friendly, and readily accessible to road travelers. Named jokingly by its architect in reference to the popular Bing Crosby movie, there were 50 Holiday Inns across the country by 1958.
THE HOLIDAY'S ICONIC NEON SIGN
The Holiday Motel features its original neon sign, which has been exempted from current signage codes due to its historic relevance. The metal box neon sign, popularized in the 1950s, was the standard in roadside business advertising until the 1960s. This period of vibrant, eye-catching displays reflected the exuberance of the postwar era. Constructed with bright, enameled panels and trimmed in neon tubing, metal box signs often included moving parts to create vivid and attention-grabbing displays both day and night.
A NEW ERA
The Holiday Motel was purchased in May 2007 by Holiday Motel Management, LLC, a group of musicians and music enthusiasts. This group came together while working on Steel Bridge Songfest (SBSF) in 2006, an original music festival designed to celebrate and raise awareness for the preservation of Sturgeon Bay’s historic Michigan Street Steel Bridge, one of the last of its kind in the country.
As part of the 2006 festival, Grammy nominated singer/songwriter pat mAcdonald (co-founder of SBSF) organized a songwriting collaborative called “The Construction Zone.” The Holiday Motel (owned and operated at that time by fellow “bridge lovers” Pete and Marilyn DeVaney) was used as headquarters for the event. Twenty-five songwriters from all over the country were invited to stay at the motel and collaboratively write songs taking inspiration from the old steel bridge they were there to promote saving. With a recording studio installed in one of the rooms and a make-shift studio in an RV in the parking lot, some 60 original songs were written and recorded at the motel.
The songwriting event was such a success that soon a coalition of like-minded musicians and music enthusiasts banded together to buy the motel, purchasing it in May of 2007 and renaming it as The Holiday Music Motel.
The following month, the second Construction Zone was held at The Holiday and another 60-some songs were composed and recorded. A compilation CD from the first year’s workshop was issued and debuted at the festival. Subsequent events were scheduled for that summer, fall and winter 2007, but it was not to be.
An electrical fire on August 5, 2007 did extensive damage to the motel and forced it to close for repairs for 22 months. Though a devastating blow, the renovation focused on green initiatives, technical upgrades (such as DSL data ports in all rooms) and preserving the historic integrity and classic 50s decor. The original metal Simmons furniture was restored and reinstalled as well as most all of the cheerfully colored original tiling in the guest bathrooms. Anything that could be saved was saved.
Now fully renovated, the motel features new wiring, brand new roof trusses, additional insulation between walls and floors (some noise is still inevitable as it is an older building), lobby and reception area improvements, and a new ultra-efficient HVAC heating and cooling system for the guest rooms and public spaces. The only major change was the removal of a wall in the lobby entryway which makes the space much more open and inviting.
Once the motel could resume its normal operations, other music events quickly popped up. October 2009 saw the very first “Dark Songs” songwriting event while November of the same year WRiTERS NiGHT–a weekly original music and spoken word open mic–took flight in addition to a series of small house concerts hosted on site in the manager’s living quarters. As if that wasn’t enough, February of 2012 introduced “Love On Holiday,” a love and love gone away themed songwriting event to help fill the mid-winter void and to provide inspiration at the coldest and darkest time of the year.
By 2013 the motel had amassed roughly 1,000 songs created within her walls. While songs were made available on CD recordings and for digital download, another vehicle was needed to expose the music to a wider audience.
Exploring the idea of an “old school” terrestrial station, it quickly became apparent that the limited broadcast radius in addition to FCC regulations and fees were too prohibitive, however, internet radio, a still somewhat unexplored and underutilized idea at the time, proved to be the perfect answer opening things up to a global audience. Steel Bridge Radio was born and is now available both online and as a free app for all mobile devices and tablets.
Rolling into 2014, the LLC was presented a fortuitous opportunity to purchase the adjacent building and expand their mission even further. Affectionately dubbed “The Tambourine Collaboratory” the new real estate venture enabled The Holiday to provide affordable work studios for visual artists; practice, rehearsal and teaching space for musicians; recording studio; office and archive space for Steel Bridge Creative Foundation; and, the crown jewel, The Tambourine Lounge, the motel’s social club that hosts the weekly WRiTERS NiGHT open mic as well as a series of choice house concerts.
While continuing to provide tourist accommodations throughout the year, The Holiday continued annually to host three major songwriting events, a weekly open mic and a wide array of house concerts until the pandemic hit in 2020. The motel was forced to close its doors while things sorted themselves out and music events were moved online. Collaborations continued from afar which pushed the songwriters to develop new skills in the realm of creating video content. (Please visit our YouTube channel to experience their brilliance for yourself!)
The motel reopened in June of 2020, housing tourists in limited numbers at first, but now The Holiday is completely back into the swing of full operations hosting travelers from all walks of life at all times of the year.
At the time of writing this portion of our history in 2023, the large-scale songwriting events have yet to resume, but WRiTERS NiGHT and house concerts have found their way back to regular rotation. Please visit Steel Bridge Creative Foundation’s website for more information and to stay up to date on the latest creative happenings. Keep following us here, or come and see for yourself and become a part of our ever-evolving history. Keep following us here, or come and see for yourself and become a part of our ever evolving history!