Kirkwood Inn Blends Mid-Century Architecture with Colonial Heritage

The original Houston Motel sign.

Originally built as the Houston Motel in 1973, Kirkwood Inn was born in the heyday of family roadtrips. In fact, the property was one of the first hotels constructed to attract travelers visiting the newly opened Kings Island amusement park.

At that time, the Eves family owned a small motel across the street from the future site of Kirkwood Inn, as well as the Houston Restaurant — a popular local hotspot with good eats and live music. With encouragement from a general contractor, the Eves family expanded their hospitality business with the new 48-key hotel.

The Racer at Kings Island in the 1970s.

Prior to construction of the new motel building, the site was barren farmland with the exception of a 1700s colonial farmhouse. As part of the project, contractors moved the entire house further back on the property to make way for the new 48-key roadside motel.

The Houston Motel opened as a comfortable retreat for travelers in summer 1973, less than two years after Kings Island debuted to the public and shortly before David and Sandy Eves, the current owner of Kirkwood Inn, were married.

Kings Island became a haven for concerts and other events, including performances from Evel Knievel, The Brady Bunch and Loretta Lynn. Thrillseekers enjoyed the amusement park’s flagship rides like the wooden Racer rollercoaster, which still exists today, and the Enchanted Voyage, a dark ride through Hanna-Barbera’s cartoon land, before retreating to the Houston Motel for a family-friendly stay.

A sculpture of Kings Island in the motel’s breezeway.

Back then, Houston guests were greeted by a classic mid-century motel sign pointing to the property. The sparkling 10-ft. outdoor pool, which then had a slide with a diving board, was a major hit among summer travelers. Guestrooms decked out with Spanish Revival decor and white French provincial accents screamed 1970s style.

Though now the motel and historic home have been fully transformed to reflect the property’s colonial heritage while offering modern amenities, today guests of Kirkwood Inn can still find some original details from the 1973 Houston Motel.

An original key from the Houston Motel

Renovations retained the flat mid-century roofing system, metal railings, and the brick and wood exterior, which has since been updated from variegated brick and brown wood to an airy pale yellow.

“This year the Kirkwood Inn celebrates its golden anniversary,” says David Eves Jr., the property’s Director of Operations. “Through three generations and 50 years our family has taken great pride in providing clean and comfortable lodging for Kings Island travelers. Our property reflects our desire to make sure all of our guests feel like extensions of our family, while you create lasting memories with yours.”

While the cigarette machine (obviously) left the lobby decades ago, the owners of what is now Kirkwood Inn kept the in-room refrigerators, paper reservations, personal wake-up calls and most notably, the original motel keys. Guests can even purchase a Kirkwood keychain to take home after their stay this summer.