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Shelandra Y. Ford
Historical Markers of Shelby County

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First Holiday Inn

The world's first Holiday Inn was opened on this site August 1, 1952 by Memphis entrepreneur Kemmons Wilson as a result of his unsatisfactory lodging experiences on a vacation the prior summer with his wife Dorothy and their five children. He soon joined with builder Wallace E. Johnson to establish a nationwide chain of inns, each marked by a giant green and yellow neon sign topped by a star. By offering family-oriented, predictable convenience and "inexpensive luxury," this single 120-room motel located on the main route into Memphis from the east would evolve into the world's largest hotel-motel system and make Mr. Wilson's life a true rags-to-riches story. This first Holiday Inn was retired by sale in 1973 and finally demolished in 1994.