The Madonna Inn

The Madonna Inn is located on the northwest corner of Madonna Rd. and the current 101 freeway. Built in 1958 by Alex and Phyllis Madonna, it has the distinction of being the world's first "theme" motel. All of it's 109 rooms have been designed, furnished, and decorated individually, and all represent a different theme i.e, the Irish Hills Room. The other unique aspects of the Inn are the extensive use of rocks, the color pink, and a urinal that uses a cascading rock waterfall. Most of the rocks used in the construction of the Madonna Inn came from the adjacent hill, and have been used in the interior and exterior walls, bathrooms, sinks, floors, showers, and fireplaces. In fact the Caveman Room even has a rock ceiling. The bubble gum pink or "Madonna Pink" color that permeates the entire Inn was basically just a personal preference by Alex and Phyllis Madonna. And, of course, the famous urinal is located in the men's bathroom downstairs below the steakhouse restaurant. The Madonna Inn is unique also in that the person that built it, Alex Madonna, also built the freeway it's next to, as the Madonna Construction company built most of the current 101 highway from Buellton to Salinas in 1953.

Construction on the original 12 unit motel began in 1957, and the motel was opened just before Christmas of 1958. By 1960, another two wings were added with an addition 30 rooms. The coffee shop, steak house, bar, shops, offices, and the drive-thru check-in/out were completed in 1962. In 1967, a fire destroyed the original 12 units, but by 1969, the large 4-story wing on the west end of property was completed bringing the number of rooms to it's present total of 109. Interestingly enough, in all it's years, the Madonna Inn has never had a swimming pool, but one is now being built just behind the south wing units, and should be open in 2006. For more information on the Madonna Inn, including views of all of the 109 rooms, visit their website at

Special thanks go to Connie Pearce, Susie Kelly, and Kay Vallely for their cooperation, and allowing me to shoot the stills and panoramic images. And of course to Phyllis Madonna, and her late husband, Alex Madonna for creating such a unique and beautiful resting place for travelers on the 101. All of the vintage photos used on this page were taken from Phyllis Madonna's book, Madonna Inn, My Point of View, which can be purchased at the Inn.

Click on the pictures below to see a larger image.

View after the restaurants & coffee shop opened in 1962
The original 12 units in 1957 ( Under Construction)
Aerial photo from 1960

View from Madonna Rd overpass. Current 101 freeway in foreground

The welcome sign at the entrance to the Inn.
Another view from the 101 overpass.
The coffee shop.
Another view of the front of the Inn.
The unique drive-thru check-in.
An example of the large rocks used in the construction.
Another view of the front of the inn looking west.
View of the "Madonna Pink" freeway signage facing the southbound traffic. Refurbished in 2001.
View looking north of the south wing. Rooms 101-115 built in 1960
This small landscaped area is located where the original 12 units that burned down in 1967 were.
Another view of the south wing facing southwest.
View looking north of the north wing. Rooms 116-129 built in 1960
In 1967, these fire hydrants were not here. The closest ones were down by the highway.
Another view of the nouth wing facing southwest.
The south end of the west wing.
The center 4-story section of the west wing. Rooms 130-218, completed in 1969.
The north end of the west wing.
Another view of the 4-story west wing. The area in the foreground is approximately where the original 12 motel units that burned down in 1967 were located.

In 1970, a Union 76 gas station was added near the entrance to the Madonna Inn. It was built in the same style as the rest of the Inn with creative use of rocks, and of course, the "Madonna Pink" colors. It was abandoned as a gas station in 1982, and was converted to a gift shop in 2001. It is also used as a place to park the limosines.

View of the front of the station as it looked in the 70's.

View looking west of the station with the Madonna Plaza in the background.
Yes, even the pumps had the pink color.

Current view of the old 76 station ( now used as a gift shop ) View looking west.

View of the unique rock supports around the old pump islands.
The tall poles that held the big round 76 sign are still there.

Probably air/water hoses were here.

Even a rock drinking fountain.
Another view of the use of rocks on the pump islands.

Panoramic Views ( Must have Java )

The Caveman Room

The Irish Hills Room


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