Ramada Inn was founded in 1953 by longtime Chicago restaurateur Marion W. Isbell. Ramada opened its first hotel on U.S. Route 66 in Flagstaff, Arizona in 1954 and set up its headquarters in Phoenix, where the chain built the Sahara Hotel on North 1st Street downtown in 1956 (which later became the Ramada Inn Downtown) and a 300-room Ramada Inn in the 3800 block of East Van Buren in 1958 that would become the chain’s flagship property and headquarters. Mr. Isbell, like his contemporary, Kemmons Wilson, the founder of the Holiday Inn hotel chain, devised the idea of building and operating a chain of roadside motor hotels while he was on a cross-country trip with his wife, Ingrid, and their three children. On that trip, Isbell noted the substandard quality of roadside motor courts along US highways at the time. He saw the possibility in the developing market for a chain of roadside motor hotels conveniently located along major highways which would provide lodgings with hotel-like quality at near-motel rates plus amenities such as TV, air conditioning, swimming pools, and on-premises restaurants.
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