Saturday, May 28, 2011

The Madonna Inn: Queen o' Kitsch


The Modonna Inn, located in San Luis Obispo is one of the largest and Kitschiest Road Side motel & restaurants in the USA.  The best part, it is still in operation and still looks JUST LIKE THIS!!  I have been there and seen it with mine own eyes.  It is glorious.

It has nothing to do with pop idol Madonna, but was instead envisioned and built by the Madonna family who were Cattle tycoons I believe.  Legend has it that Ms. Madonna was in charge of the decorating.  There are hundreds of rooms each more amazing than the last.  Seriously, God Bless this woman because what you are about to see is really something for the Kitsch Hall O' Fame!

I found this set of postcards at an estate sale in town and they appear to be from about the 1970's judging by the cars in these exterior shots. Each one of the captions under these scans are the actual descriptions printed on the back of the post card (overuse of commas and all!).  You can still purchase postcards of each room in the lobby of the hotel to commemorate your pilgrimage. 

So sit back and enjoy this vintage photo tour of a California Kitsch Icon....The glorious Madonna Inn!!  
"Madonna Inn by Night! - For your gala entertaining and personal dining pleasure...Finest food obtainable in exclusive surroundings.  Coffee shop, Gold Rush Dining Room and Cocktail Bar, and Wine Cellar Cocktail lounge.  Enjoy either a sophisticated or Informal atmosphere.  Banquet accommodations for Large and Small parties.  Boutique Gift Shop and Men's Shop.   Exquisite rooms and suites from $12.00 Up."
"Hilltop Motel Building - This is the latest addition to our Madonna Inn complex...structure contains 85 units...Singles, Doubles, and Suites.  Various rooms and suites have been designed especially for honeymoon couples.  Each room throughout our complex is individually named and decorated.  Each room tells its own story, and on each visit, you may select a room to match your mood"

"Hilltop Motel Unit- Our latest addition to the Madonna Inn complex is the Hilltop Unit, containing a total of 81 rooms and suites.  Two sections of this unit are one-story high, two sections are three stories high, and the central section is four stories high, providing some excellent views of the San Luis Obispo landscape.  This building was completed in 1969."    
"Madonna Inn Coffee Counter- Featuring circular hand designed and etched copper counter top.  All wood surfaces and booth decorations have been designed and hand carved on the premises.  Gay wall scenes in the three circular booths were painted by local artist, Cor Visser.  This counter area , including the booths, has a seating capacity of 52 people.  Pastries baked fresh daily in complete bakery adjoining Coffee Shop...take a peak through the showcase and order some pastries to take with you.  Let's Eat and be Forever Happy!"

"Gold Rush Dining Room - The highlight of this Main Dining Room is the "Gold Tree" This Unusual lighting device, which measures 28 feet across, was built in place by various Madonna Inn and Madonna Construction Company craftsmen.  Each petal, blossom and stem was handmade from copper and then gold leafed.  Dining Room has seating capacity of 500 people.  Marble balustrade, to the left out of view of this photo, is an import from Europe.   Enjoy delightful dining and dancing (Dance bands each Friday and Saturday) in this unique, intimate atmosphere"
"Wine Cellar Ladies Room- A powder-room Milady!  Relax in comfort for your make-up repairs, under a lighted canopy.  Italian tiled floor and marble make-up counter add to the atmosphere"
"Wine Celler  Men's Room - The secret's out!  Now the ladies can see our men's room, without a guided tour!  This is the first picture published of our celebrated men's room with the "water fall".  Not evident in the photo are the clam shell sinks.  If you want to see it ladies, make sure all the gentleman are out!"  - SIDE NOTE:  The "waterall"  they are talking about is a urinal, with flowing waterfall.  Yup, you piss into the water fall.  presumably, it isn't recirculating water!  My BF took me in there once he had "made sure all the gentlemen were out"  it is pretty amazing!!!
"Room 191 aka Misty Rocks- Ideal for honeymooners because of it's feeling of seclusion, "Misty Rocks" is done in lush green colors.  The wet rock affect and green color scheme makes one feel in touch with nature!  Room is situated on the lower level of the Hilltop Unit, and is furnished with a king-sized bed."

"Room 113 aka Cabin Still - Conversation pieces everywhere you look in this room!  We have built a replica of an old fashioned still in the bath, but no "moon-shining" please!  Sofa was hand-hewn from tree trunks, and is cushioned with flower sack pillows.  Room is furnished with a king-sized bed."
"Room 177 aka Indian Room- For a Pow-Wows or Pajama Parties, try our Indian Room!  A fitting decor, using Indian artifacts, leather bedspread and draperies, arrow light fixtures, etc. may help to preserve the proud Indian heritage of our land.  Room is furnished with a king-sized bed."

"Room 181 aka Chestnut Foal - For horse fanciers, we offer this room with "corral" wallpaper and pasture green carpeting, walls and woodwork.  Room is on the second floor of our Hilltop Motel Unit, and is furnished with a king-sized bed."
"Room 202 aka Swiss Bell" - One of the imaginative rooms in our Switzerland series.  Noteworthy are the custom designed leaded glass windows depicting a rural Swiss scene...cows and hardy flowers native to Switzerland...   Rock walls and rock shower.  Room is equipped with a king-sized bed."

"Victorian Gardens - The furniture in this room is as the name implies..."Victorian".  The high canopy bed, sofa, desk, telephone table etc., are all exact copies of old antique furniture.  Roses, the flower of the Victorian era, are used often in our room theme, even in the bathroom and dressing room hand-embroidered wallpaper.  Room is equipped with color television, and a king sized and double bed."

"Room 130 aka Yosemite Rock - This small but cozy  suite consists of a bedroom and sitting area, with a large rock fireplace.  Lush green carpeting and green contrasts throughout the suite, add a necessary ingredient to the natural rock setting.  Room is furnished with a king-sized bed"

"Room 161 Cloud Nine - A "heavenly" room decorated with golden cherubs of every size and description.  The plastic shower doors and panels were especially designed and made for this room by Phyllis Madonna.  From this elevation, we hope you feel you are "on top of the world!"  Room is furnished with a king-sized bed."

"Room 169 - "Vouz" - One of a group of three rooms known as "RON DE VOUZ"...this room done in romantic blue, with a circular, blue velvet covered bed.  Second floor setting provides a lovely view."

"Room 174 aka Krazey Daisey - A room "filled" with daffy daisies!  Pinks and reds are used boldly to compliment the overall daisy theme.  Room is furnished with a king-size bed."
"Room 175 aka Rocky Mountain - A combination of rock and paneled walls provides and interesting contrast.  A blue color scheme predominates, with bright red furnishings for contrast.  Room is furnished with a king-sized bed."

"Room 185 aka Sky Room - We have decorated this one-and-half story suite in colors of the heavens, and called it our "Sky Room"  The downstairs is outfitted with a king-sized bed, and the balcony level with twin beds.  Chandeliers and rich, lush blue carpeting, help to echo the relaxing qualities of this suite."

"Edelweiss Bathroom - Edelweiss, a hearty flower of Switzerland is the theme of this lovely bath and adjoining room.  If you are reminded of the "Sound of Music", we have succeeded in our decorative intent.  Imported Italian tile and floral basins, add further foreign flavor to this decor."

"Pony Room - The use of wide barn type paneling, painted bright red, with matching red carpet, carries out the Pony Room theme.  Lamps in the front bedroom are copies of the old fashioned coal lamps...light fixture in the back bedroom is shaped like a wagon wheel.  The front door leaded glass insert was designed from an actual photograph of one of our Hackney show ponies.  Room is equipped with television, and two king sized beds."  
So Ladies and gentlemen, that is the Madonna Inn!  If you are ever near the Central Coast of California, you should really stop in and pay homage!  There is no equal in kitschyness!


  1. Oh my god. I have to get on a brown 3 piece suit and shave me a mustache, but I think I can handle it.

  2. That place is absolutely astonishing!!! Reminds me of Elvis' house. I can only imagine what kind of top notch acts performed in the Gold Rush Dining Room...."Four Jacks and a Jill?"

  3. Wowie, that takes me back to my parent's fav hangouts in the sixties~ the Verona Room! Love it, it's so ugly it's beautiful!

  4. I've been there before. I ate breakfast there and I remember my friend and I sneaking into the mens bathroom to see the gold toliets or sinks (I can't remember which). Gotta make our summer pilgrimage to the coast soon. Might have to stop by. " )

  5. And I now have THE ULTIMATE honeymoon destination. Omg. Omg. The Gold Rush Dining Room. Omg. THANKS. FOR. SHARING. Love it.

  6. I think that I stopped breathing while reading this post. Wow! I don't just want to stay there - I want to work there!

  7. Aint it grand? I would totally LOVE to honeymoon here! There are dozens of honeymoon suites. Wowzers!

  8. Omg, I totally want to stay there. How awesome!

  9. Wow, Madonna Inn! Now there's some stylin' rooms! I simply love the rock walled rooms with the avocado furniture!

  10. I have always wanted to go to the Madonna Inn! Isn't it the dreamiest thing ever?!?! I'm jealous of your postcard find!

    By the way, I just discovered your blog tonight, and I'm a big fan!

  11. This may be the greatest hotel on the face of the earth. I am dying to stay in the Yosemite Room!

  12. Pink Naugahyde banquettes in the dining room. Um...AWESOME! I would love one of those in my boudoir.

  13. What a place!!!!! Thanks for showing all those neat pics of the different rooms! One day I will get there!!! :)


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