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.