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Entering the dictionaries after World War II, the word motel (portmanteau of "motor" and "hotel" or "motorists' hotel") referred initially to a single building of connected rooms whose doors face a parking lot and/or common area or a series of small cabins with common parking. Their creation was driven by increased driving distances on the United States highway system that allowed easy cross-country travel.
The concept originated with the Motel Inn of San Luis Obispo, constructed in 1925 by Arthur Heineman.
The motel began in the 1920s as mom-and-pop motor courts on the outskirts of a town. They attracted the first road warriors as they crossed the United States in their new automobiles. Even the famous outlaws Bonnie and Clyde were frequent guests, using motels as hideouts.
Motels differed from hotels in their emphasis on largely anonymous interactions between owners and occupants, their location along highways (as opposed to urban cores), and their orientation to the outside (in contrast to hotels whose doors typically face an interior hallway). Motels almost by definition included a parking lot, while older hotels were not built with automobile parking in mind.