Thunderbird Motel

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The Thunderbird Motel was an Indian-themed motel that was built in 1962 along Interstate 494 and 24th Ave. in Bloomington, Minnesota, a suburb of Minneapolis. It is an example of post-war Americana. The hotel is a part of the Ramada franchise. The original Thunderbird Hotel no longer exists.

Native Americans in the United States Indigenous peoples of the United States (except Hawaii)

Native Americans, also known as American Indians, Indigenous Americans and other terms, are the indigenous peoples of the United States, except Hawaii and territories of the United States. More than 570 federally recognized tribes live within the US, about half of which are associated with Indian reservations. The term "American Indian" excludes Native Hawaiians and some Alaskan Natives, while "Native Americans" are American Indians, plus Alaska Natives of all ethnicities. The US Census does not include Native Hawaiians or Chamorro, instead being included in the Census grouping of "Native Hawaiian and other Pacific Islander".

Interstate 494 (I-494) is a loop route making up part of a beltway of Interstate 94, circling through the southern and western portions of the Minneapolis – Saint Paul metropolitan area in Minnesota. The 43-mile (69 km) road is coupled with Interstate 694 at each end, and composes more than half of the major beltway of the region. I-694 / I-494 also act as loop routes for Interstate 35E and Interstate 35W.

Bloomington, Minnesota City in Minnesota, United States

Bloomington is the fifth largest city, as of 2018 estimates, in the U.S. state of Minnesota. It is located in Hennepin County on the north bank of the Minnesota River, above its confluence with the Mississippi River. Bloomington lies 10 miles (16 km) south of downtown Minneapolis. As of the 2010 census the city's population was 82,893, and in 2018 the estimated population was 85,578.



The motel was built at a time of rapid expansion in this area of south metropolitan Minneapolis. Interstate 494 had just been constructed, and the area was growing. With the construction of Metropolitan Stadium in 1955, and the moving of the Washington Senators to Minnesota by Calvin Griffith in 1961, the motel was primed to handle city business, airport travelers, and suburban business. In late 2005, the hotel was purchased by Ramada. On March 22, 2016, the city of Bloomington, MN purchased the hotel and made plans to demolish the existing building in favor of upcoming expansions to the neighboring Mall of America. [1] As of September 2016 the hotel building was undergoing demolition.

Metropolitan area region consisting of a densely populated urban core and its less-populated but economically-linked surroundings

A metropolitan area is a region consisting of a densely populated urban core and its less-populated surrounding territories, sharing industry, infrastructure, and housing. A metro area usually comprises multiple jurisdictions and municipalities: neighborhoods, townships, boroughs, cities, towns, exurbs, suburbs, counties, districts, states, and even nations like the eurodistricts. As social, economic and political institutions have changed, metropolitan areas have become key economic and political regions.

Metropolitan Stadium baseball stadium in Minneapolis

Metropolitan Stadium was a sports stadium that once stood in Bloomington, Minnesota, just outside Minneapolis and St. Paul. The Minneapolis Millers minor league baseball team played at Met Stadium from 1956 to 1960. The Minnesota Twins and the Minnesota Vikings then played at the "Met" from 1961 to 1981. The North American Soccer League soccer team Minnesota Kicks also played there from 1976 to 1981.

Minnesota U.S. state in the United States

Minnesota is a state in the Upper Midwest, Great Lakes, and northern regions of the United States. Minnesota was admitted as the 32nd U.S. state on May 11, 1858, created from the eastern half of the Minnesota Territory. The state has many lakes, and is known as the "Land of 10,000 Lakes". Its official motto is L'Étoile du Nord.

Early competition

The motel competed primarily with the Holiday Inn, with its famous Great Sign, which was erected in 1961 at the intersection of Interstate 494 and 34th Ave. S, one mile (1.6 km) east of the Thunderbird. It stands to this day, although significantly altered.

Holiday Inn brand of hotels

Holiday Inn is a British-owned American brand of hotels, and a subsidiary of InterContinental Hotels Group. Founded as a U.S. motel chain, it has grown to be one of the world's largest hotel chains, with 1,173 active hotels and over 214,000 bedrooms as of September 30, 2018. The hotel chain's headquarters are in Denham, Buckinghamshire.

The Thunderbird also competed with the Howard Johnson motel and restaurant, which was the first of its kind in Minnesota, built in 1963 at the corner of Interstate 494 and Mn 100, five miles (8 km) west of the Thunderbird. It, unfortunately, was demolished in the year 2000.

Howard Johnsons American chain of hotels, motels and restaurants

Howard Johnson's, or Howard Johnson by Wyndham, is an American chain of hotels and motels located primarily throughout the United States and Canada. It had also once been a chain of restaurants for over 90 years and its name was widely known for that alone. Founded by Howard Deering Johnson, it was the largest restaurant chain in the U.S. throughout the 1960s and 1970s, with more than 1,000 combined company-owned and franchised outlets.


The exterior of the Thunderbird was notable for its post-war architecture, including faux stone, tall white columns, and colorful brick. The exterior featured several examples of the Thunderbird logo, most notably on its famous sign, which had stood since its opening. It featured two arrows criss-crossing the sign, with the logo at the top and the marquee below. Standing adjacent to the sign and just as tall was a synthetic totem pole, with many characters and levels. Both signs stood facing Interstate 494. The exterior also featured a giant fiberglass statue of an Indian, hand raised in salute. There was also a smaller metallic Indian statue and a cannon. The grounds of the motel also had a unique outdoor pool featuring the motel logo; it was surrounded by the motel. Both statues were removed in the early spring of 2006, and as of November 2006 the exterior signs bore the Mall of America logo in place of the old Thunderbird logo.

Brick Block or a single unit of a ceramic material used in masonry construction

A brick is building material used to make walls, pavements and other elements in masonry construction. Traditionally, the term brick referred to a unit composed of clay, but it is now used to denote rectangular units made of clay-bearing soil, sand, and lime, or concrete materials. Bricks can be joined together using mortar, adhesives or by interlocking them. Bricks are produced in numerous classes, types, materials, and sizes which vary with region and time period, and are produced in bulk quantities. Two basic categories of bricks are fired and non-fired bricks.

Totem pole monumental sculptures carved on poles, posts, or pillars with symbols or figures

Totem poles are monumental carvings, a type of Northwest Coast art, consisting of poles, posts or pillars, carved with symbols or figures. They are usually made from large trees, mostly western red cedar, by First Nations and indigenous peoples of the Pacific Northwest coast including northern Northwest Coast Haida, Tlingit, and Tsimshian communities in Southeast Alaska and British Columbia, Kwakwaka'wakw and Nuu-chah-nulth communities in southern British Columbia, and the Coast Salish communities in Washington and British Columbia.

Swimming pool Artificial container filled with water intended for swimming

A swimming pool, swimming bath, wading pool, or paddling pool is a structure designed to hold water to enable swimming or other leisure activities. Pools can be built into the ground or built above ground, and are also a common feature aboard ocean-liners and cruise ships. In-ground pools are most commonly constructed from materials such as concrete, natural stone, metal, plastic, or fiberglass, and can be of a custom size and shape or built to a standardized size, the largest of which is the Olympic-size swimming pool.


The inside of the motel featured many common architectural trends of the 1960s, with a suspended ceiling, can lighting, and faux stone. The motel featured numerous genuine and artificial Indian artifacts, and unique light fixtures that looked like teepees but actually acted as lights. The many artifacts included a stuffed wolf, tomahawks, and pictures. The motel had many amenities, such as the Bow and Arrow Coffee Shop, the Totem Pole Dining Room, and the Pow-Wow Cocktail Lounge, as well as an indoor pool.

Wolf Species of mammal (canine)

The wolf, also known as the gray/grey wolf, is a canine native to the wilderness and remote areas of Eurasia and North America. It is the largest extant member of its family, with males averaging 43–45 kg (95–99 lb) and females 36–38.5 kg (79–85 lb). It is distinguished from other Canis species by its larger size and less pointed features, particularly on the ears and muzzle. Its winter fur is long and bushy and predominantly a mottled gray in colour, although nearly pure white, red and brown to black also occur. Mammal Species of the World, a standard reference work in zoology, recognizes 38 subspecies of C. lupus.

The motel also featured "The Hall of Tribes", a mini-museum in the motel with rooms of the museum dedicated to different tribes. Some tribes represented included the Winnebago, the Miami, and the Dakota.

Convention Center

The Thunderbird featured a 32,000 sq ft (3,000 m2) convention center which included three large halls which at times could be divided into smaller rooms by the way of automatic and manual airwalls. Each of the individual rooms were named after Native American tribes. For example, the largest room ("Hall of Tribes") included rooms named Chippewa, Cherokee, Navajo and Pawnee. Another banquet hall could be divided into the "East Menomonie", "West Menomonie" and Miami rooms (the combination of which makes up "The 3 'M's"). The third banquet hall could be split into three rooms named Shoshone, Winnebago and Yakima.

As a historic landmark

The Thunderbird represented a carefree time after the war, when young families were in search of fun and entertainment. The Thunderbird was an example of a retro, independently owned motel that featured the amenities expected at the time and carried on to its closing in 2016 with few changes to the feel of the motel.


See also

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Coordinates: 44°51′38″N93°14′27″W / 44.8606923°N 93.2407491°W / 44.8606923; -93.2407491