Free Air and Phone: Perks of the Motel Sign

For anyone passing through Portland, it must be nearly impossible to decide where to stay. If you want the motel experience, not only do you have to determine whether the name on the sign, as well as the sign itself suits your taste, you have to consider additional information that may be provided. How many TV channels are you going to get? What if you want a jacuzzi in the room? You always assume you’ll have wi-fi access but do you know? Direct dial phones? Air conditioning? TV? Sometimes it’s the bonus features that make or break the deal. The extras might make the price right. If you’re looking for more than a bed and a pillow you have to consider the features you can or maybe can’t live without for a night or two. Some motels list room features directly on the sign while others have added a marquee for that purpose.

SW Barbur Blvd

Lately, I’ve spent time driving up Interstate and walking and driving in SW where I began to look past the coolness factor of the  signs and discover aspects of them that began to appear absurd.  There were outdated listings of luxuries we now take for granted like phone service, TV and air conditioning. I appreciate the older signs. They look even better in the evening when their neon lights cut through the dark. It’s likely people don’t really consider the quality of the motel signs or mull over specific offerings when choosing a place to stay but for the purpose of writing about motel signs I decided I needed a gimmick.

N Interstate Ave

Fans of the Vikings television show probably won’t find any real Vikings staying at this motel. TV is listed at the top of the sign so it’s a given you’ll have something to watch and hopefully you won’t miss an episode. Otherwise this motel is keeping its offerings on the down low.

N Interstate Ave

This is one of my favorite motel signs in town. I’m not sure why. It could be the cowboy hat. It’s obvious the sign is old. It seems like direct dial phones were possibly a key selling point a long time ago. At least the TV you watch will be in color and the room temperature should be cool.

SW Barbur Blvd

Another old sign that has seen some wear and tear. If you’re looking for phones and kitchens you’ll find them at the Ranch Inn but free cable TV with 32 channels and Showtime movies is the real bargain.

N Interstate Ave

This is another of Portland’s finest neon signs. At night the monkey is more animated moving up and down the  tree. The addition of a marquee allows for increased sales tactics. Free TV seems to have been as much a part of the original sign as the neon monkey.

Palms sign, detail

Showtime shows up again along with commercial rates and internet. Free stuff shouldn’t make the room cost anymore.

N Interstate Ave

When the S in the sign is shaped like a dollar sign that has to imply you’ll be getting a good price. Throw in free high speed internet and you’ve got yourself a deal.  You’re not staying at a motel either. It’s an Inn.


How are you going to settle for anything less than an in room jacuzzi at any price? I loved the old sign before it was replaced. I’m sad to say I never took a photo. The new design did not include additional room perks but if you have an in room jacuzzi what else would you need?

N Interstate Ave

The Monticello makes excellent use of the marquee below the picture of Thomas Jefferson’s old home with an arrow going through it. All your questions should be answered. The motel has some tempting incentives, DSL and HBO too, although in my personal experience I can only think of one hotel experience where HBO actually had something on their schedule that I wanted to watch.

SW Capitol Hwy

I’m getting excited about this sign. I like the lettering font and the simplistic logo. Below the word Inn is an animated sign board offering a welcoming message. Spa, pillow tops, and hot breakfast feels like a little bit of heaven and certainly hospitable.

N Interstate Ave

This sign does not make good use of it’s letter board, but it does have the phrase “Affordable Rates” at the top. This is a rallying cry to cheapskates like me. Has this Inn economized on room perks? Can I at least get some ice in my bucket? There is only one way to find out.

Budget Motel Back view

N Interstate

This sign seems to be in the process of refurbishment. The lettering on the marquee is one of the only instances I’ve seen of a motel offering a special deal which makes for an extra special use of their lettering board.

Budget Motel

A better view.

Here’s a better look at the Budget Motel sign before the special offer had  been placed on the marquee.

SW 6th Ave

This is a beaut of a sign that snuck up on me on one of those traffic-is-always-bad-on-Thursday afternoons when I took a detour to get home. Back in the day AC, phones and TV seems to be what everyone was looking for. The WI-FI looks like a late addition. I’m going to go out on a limb and praise this as an incredible example of mid-century modern design. I may even be wrong about that, but what do I care.

SW Barbur Blvd

The sign alone makes me want to spend time at this motel. I’d gladly walk up and down the sidewalk out front admiring the sign’s dome and swirling arrow anxiously waiting night fall when the sign would be illuminated. In the background a smaller sign advertises high speed wireless internet. There is no need to offer much else when the main sign looks this good.

SW Barbur Blvd

Kitchenettes and suites are the main draw for the Aladdin Motel. It’s not often that I think of baking anything when I stay in a motel. The sign does have the bonus feature of being part of the Barbur Plaza sign plan. These aren’t exactly in-room perks but you do have the option of getting your nails done, grabbing a gyro, pizza, a gun or some vaping gear while enjoying your stay at the Aladdin.

Editor’s Note: Many of the photos in this piece were taken while driving. This is not something the Portland Orbit advocates or recommends. It is now being insisted upon that all photographers stop and exit their vehicles before taking pictures.

Next Week: The Purple Post

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