Photography, Road Trips

Vintage motel signs on the Dixie Highway in Cave City, KY

The Wigwam Village isn’t the only classic motel in Cave City, Kentucky. It’s just the most distinctive.

Cave City, KY

The Holiday Motel and the Caveland Motel have the best vintage signs of all the old motels in Cave City. Judging by photos of the Caveland Motel sign around the Internet, it has received a recent coat of fresh paint. I also find photos around the Internet that show the neon at least partially working on both of these signs.

Cave City, KY

Here’s another look at the Wigwam Village’s vintage sign. Internet photos show the neon working on this one, too.

Cave City, KY

These are all film photos from my Olympus Stylus Epic Zoom 80.


Also check out some great old signage on US 40, the National Road, in western Indiana here.

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12 thoughts on “Vintage motel signs on the Dixie Highway in Cave City, KY

  1. For me, these signs say America like nothing else. When I see them I think of the classic movies I love – Double Indemnity and The Postman Always Rings Twice are a couple. Then there’s classic road songs like Burma Shave by Tom Waits, and of course Jack Kerouac, Robert Frank and jazz. A bygone age where it seemed that there were still unexplored and untamed places just past the next town, and that maybe your fortune was waiting for you beyond the next dip in the road.

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    • I’m not entirely sure that era existed exactly as we romanticize it today, but it sure would have been fun to take a road trip when motels like these were new!

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  2. I remember when Holiday Inn signs looked like the one you show. I stayed at some of this type of motel a few times back when they were more common. That was all there was in a lot of places at the time. I have to admit that none of them were close to being new at the time. The experience was pretty mixed. Usually the best you could hope for was that the place was reasonably clean. I do believe that people glamorize life on the road back then to be a lot better than it was. From my experience the standards were much lower than they are today. Like most restrooms in filling stations were filthy. We always would look for Standard Stations because they were one of the few that made an effort to have clean restrooms. And some of the Mom & and Pop eating places could be pretty bad. It is no accident that despite having fairly bland food that places like McDonald’s took off back then because at least people would know what to expect.

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    • I think you have it exactly right. You never really did know what you were going to get with the independent motels and restaurants on the road. Knowing exactly what you’re going to get is compelling, especially when you’re road-weary.

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  3. Kif says:

    With high speed Internet and high Def television, I always get a kick out of seeing advertisements for “color TV” or “cable” preserved on old hotel signs. The addition of “American owned and operated” to one sign pictured is kind of ominous though. When I see those signs, I certainly don’t want to stop and meet the proprietors. Some old ideas should be left in the past.

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    • What I’ve discovered is that “American owned” is a way to overcome prejudice against immigrant hotel owners. Especially, I think, Indians immigrate and buy businesses like this and run them — to the point where a very large number of mom-and-pop hotels are owned and run by immigrants. Of course, I’ve also discovered that “American owned” is technically true after the immigrant owners become American citizens.

      I don’t care who owns the hotel I stay in. I care that it’s clean and in good repair, and the service is good. But apparently some people must care about ownership, or these signs wouldn’t be present.

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  4. As many times as I have driven down I-65, I have never driven into Cave City. Wife tells me I need to learn that the journey is the destination and the end-point is just where one turns around. Also things like, “You don’t know how to have fun.”

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