‘The Largest Motor Hotel in the World’: The James M. Hunt Architectural Collection and the Atlanta Marriott

February 26, 2014 – 11:52 AM

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by Lauren E. Mauldin

After its completion in 1965, the Atlanta Marriott Motor Hotel was coined the “Southeast’s largest motor hotel.” After constructing a 300-room addition in 1969, it became the “largest motor hotel in the world.”

Marriott Motor Hotels contracted with architect James M. Hunt, FAIA, from Elberton, Georgia to design Marriott’s seventh motor hotel and its first hotel in the South. Construction began in 1964 and was completed in time for its Grand Opening in October 1964. Each of the 500 “handsome” guest rooms included a direct dial telephone, TV, HiFi radio, private balcony, oversized beds, and individual air conditioning and heating controls (a welcoming feature for relief from the sweltering Atlanta heat). With the numerous amenities, convenient location to Atlanta attractions, as well as proximity to the Hartsfield International Airport, the motor hotel became an instant success, and celebrated its one-millionth guest exactly one year after opening its doors.

The sudden popularity of the Atlanta Marriott Motor Hotel spurred the construction of additional space. Hunt went back to his drafting board and designed a tower to include 300 guest rooms, a 10-story parking garage, an additional restaurant, cocktail lounge, and office space. With 700 guest rooms, 100 suites, 1,000 parking spaces, 3 dining rooms, 3 cocktail lounges, a 10,000 square foot ballroom, an exhibition hall one full acre in size, and at least 18 banquet and meeting rooms, the Atlanta Marriott prided itself as the “largest motor hotel in the world.”

Perhaps one of the most well known buildings attributed to James M. Hunt, the construction of the Atlanta Marriott Motor Hotel became the “pacesetter” for future growth of the hotel industry in Atlanta. The hotel still stands today, but operates as a Sheraton Hotel.

Note: The James M. Hunt Architectural Collection, ms2901, is available at the Hargrett Rare Book and Manuscript Library and contains an assortment of blueprints, construction files, and photographs pertaining to low rent housing, civic, commercial, and residential projects designed by Hunt throughout Georgia and South Carolina.  

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  1. One Response to “‘The Largest Motor Hotel in the World’: The James M. Hunt Architectural Collection and the Atlanta Marriott”

  2. Hey Lauren…. thanks for your wonderful event post on my father. I’m delighted that Mom chose to donate his work to such a fine place to preserve and share it.

    Hope you don’t mind an observation from the son who accompanied his Dad during the Marriott’s planning & construction trips as a child… but I believe the Original Downtown Atlanta Marriott was the THIRD Marriott property, and the FIRST outside of Washington, DC.

    One could easily feel it was the 7th by counting the properties listed on post cards and matchbook covers after the 300 room addition in 1968, as new hotels were built by then in Chicago and New Orleans…. plus the purchases of Essex House in New York and Arizona’s Camelback Inn.

    I’m pretty sure of this, as I have the very thick book of specifications for the Chicago Marriott here in my office, and it’s dated June, 1966. After the original Atlanta opening, Dad consulted on the Chicago and New Orleans projects.

    Again, many thanks for keeping priceless archives alive!!

    Sincerely

    Mat Hunt
    Greenville, SC

    By Mat Hunt on Mar 6, 2014

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