Monday, April 25, 2016

Signature Inn's "missing pieces"

Last week I ran a post stating that I found a 29th location that was never on Signature Inn's website.  Also in that post was reference to an article that stated there were 35 locations built.  Once I found #29, I began a new search to find the six I was missing.  Unfortunately the Internet was largely not around back before 1998, so I figured this new search would be a tad difficult.


My searches led me to, a searchable archive of old newspapers around the globe.  They were advertising a free 7-day trial, but they needed my credit card in the event I lose track of days so they can hit me.  At first I backed out of the site because I really didn't want to enter my info, but then I realized that this may just be the ticket.  So, armed with my free trial, I went to town searching for whatever information I could gather.  I ended up with over 100 pages, some about the company's news happenings over the years and some with ads I found particularly interesting.

In that search, I was easily able to find addresses, or at least the general area of the locations I previously had no knowledge of.  Google Maps was very helpful once I knew of the general locations...thank goodness for Signature Inns' unique look and footprint!  I found some updated dates as well for openings of some of the other locations.  Some I found a full date for, some I found at least a month and year; others had no mention and what I listed before still stands.  I also was able to update a few dates as to when some of the hotels were sold.

Following is my attempt to correct and add to my earlier-posted timeline.  I have put my corrections/additions in bold:
Their first hotel was opened in 1981 in northwest Indianapolis, Indiana.  Many more locations were built through the 1980s, with at least one each year being built up through 1989.  One was constructed in 1996.  Four locations were other hotels purchased by Signature Inn, two in 1987 and two in 1997.  All together, the chain consisted of 35 locations.  Indiana, the chain's home state, contained 14 locations.  Ohio and Michigan contained six locations, Kentucky had four hotels, Illinois had three, and Iowa and Tennessee each had one hotel.  There was a 36th hotel planned in Nashville, Tennessee, for 1995, but those plans were cancelled and the land was sold in 1998.

Below is a timeline I've put together showing the chain's growth:
1981 – Indianapolis Northwest (IN) opens
1982 – Fort Wayne (IN) opens
1983 – Indianapolis/Castleton and Lafayette (IN) open
1984 – Muncie (IN) and Cincinnati Northeast (OH) open
1985 – Indianapolis West, Indianapolis South, Indianapolis East, and Kokomo (IN), and Columbus (OH) open
1986 – Evansville (IN), Florence (KY), and Warren (MI) open
1987 – Elkhart, South Bend, and Terre Haute (IN), Detroit/Romulus and Grand Rapids (MI), and Cincinnati North and Dayton (OH) open.  Terre Haute and Grand Rapids were other hotels before becoming Signature Inns
1988 – Normal and Peoria (IL), and Lexington and Louisville South (KY) open
1989 – Bettendorf (IA), Auburn Hills, Kalamazoo, Plymouth, and Warren (MI), Canton and Middleburg Heights (OH), and Knoxville (TN) all open
1995 – Nashville (TN) planned, but never built
1996 – Indianapolis/Carmel opens
1997 – Springfield (IL) joined the chain after being a Sheraton and a Best Western.  Louisville East (KY) joined the chain after being a Best Western.

For the sake of correctness, my original post said four hotels didn't match the Signature Inn building style.  Because Grand Rapids was another hotel prior to its acquisition by Signature Inn, there were five hotels that didn't fully share the standard Signature Inn look.
Another startling discovery was that Signature Inn filed for bankruptcy in 1990 on nine of its 32 inns ("Debt woes bankrupt Signature Inns," The Indianapolis Star, April 24, 1990).  The company built its hotels and then sold them to private investors, who would then pay Signature Inn a commission fee along with management and accounting fees.  Once the hotels were sold, the proceeds would be used to help pay down the debt incurred to build them.  Unfortunately, they were unable to sell a total of nine of them and the company was saddled with that debt.

A February 23, 1991, article from The Indianapolis Star titled, "Travelodge goes after Signature Inns," outlined those nine hotels.  They were the Peoria and Normal locations in Illinois; Detroit, Grand Rapids, Kalamazoo, and Plymouth in Michigan; Canton and Middleburg Heights in Ohio; and Knoxville, Tennessee.  By March 1991, Travelodge ended its bid and the bankruptcy case was over before the month was out.  Signature Inn's nine motels in question would still remain company owned.

The next article I was able to find, "Signs point up for once-struggling motel chain," The Indianapolis Star, January 29, 1995, mentions that in 1994 the chain began having a profitable year.  BUT, it also mentions that Signature Inn had 23 hotels, which was down from 32 back in 1990.  Searches of various county auditor sites and little newspaper snippets show me the following:

Detroit/Romulus and Grand Rapids, Michigan, were sold off sometime in 1992.  Auburn Hills, Michigan, and Lexington, Kentucky, were sold in late 1992 or early 1993.  Kalamazoo and Warren, Michigan, were sold in 1993.  I turned up an ad in the August 16, 1993, edition of The Akron Beacon Journal for a bank directed sale of the inns in Canton and Middleburg Heights, Ohio.  By the early part of 1994, they were in the hands of other chains.  By late 1994, Plymouth was no longer a Signature Inn.

To "complete" the sale timeline, I am reposting information from June 2015 with corrections in bold:

After 1994, the next location to be dropped would be the Northeast Cincinnati location in early 2002.  Next to go in late 2003 or early 2004 was the Florence, Kentucky, location.  Cincinnati North followed behind somewhere between February and April 2004.  Bettendorf, Iowa, disappeared from the web site in mid-2005.  Dayton, Ohio, was sold in June 2005 and Terre Haute, Indiana, was sold in December 2005.

The Indianapolis Northwest (their first hotel) and Indianapolis East locations were sold off sometime in mid-2006.  Somewhere between September 2006 and October 2006, the Columbus, Ohio, location was gone from the site (though the county auditor shows the property was sold in February 2006).  Also of note is that somewhere around this point in time, a lot of the remaining establishments would be under the Jameson Inns name.  However, it appears that Springfield, Illinois; Normal, Illinois; Fort Wayne, Indiana; Lafayette, Indiana; and South Bend, Indiana, would keep the Signature Inn name.

As of late 2006, the chain was down to 17 locations.  The next one would be sold in August 2007, that one being the Fort Wayne, Indiana, location.  The rest of the chain was granted a reprieve until February 2010 when the Springfield, Illinois location was closed (that hotel was demolished two months later).  According to property records I've been able to find, the Lafayette, Indiana, location was no longer part of the chain as of May 2010.

The remaining 14 locations would be safe until sometime in early 2011 when Kokomo, Indiana, would no longer be affiliated with the chain.

The next round of closures came in late November or early December 2012.  Normal, Illinois; Elkhart, Indiana; Evansville, Indiana; Indianaoplis West; Indianapolis South; and Muncie, Indiana, would all be removed from the chain, dropping the number of hotels from 13 down to seven.

When the end of 2012 rolled around, the remaining seven locations would all be sold off, those being Peoria, Illinois; Indianapolis/Castleton; Indianapolis/Carmel; South Bend, Indiana; Louisville, Kentucky, East; Louisville, Kentucky South; and Knoxville, Tennessee.

The good news is that most of what I've found fits in the timeline of my update schedule since nearly all of these newly-found locations were built in 1988 or after.  Warren, MI, is the exception and that may be next up.  The not-so-good-but-not-a-big-deal news is that a lot of my previous posts have SOMETHING to be added to them.  I will be working on a plan for presenting the updated information.  My long-term goal is still to figure out how to visit the other 16 still-surviving locations that I've not been to.

former Fort Wayne location, now a Quality Inn

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Location update - found another one!

Today while I was looking for information and photos for another defunct hotel chain, I stumbled upon another Signature Inn location!

In doing my research for this, I was only ever able to find 28: 26 on their old website, a 27th because I knew about it for quite some time, and a 28th by pure dumb luck.  While in the research phase, I did find an article from May 2012 in the Indianapolis Business Journal titled "Signature Inns Founder Plans Auto Care Franchises."  In it, the writer stated that the founder, John Bontreger, opened 35 hotel locations in 7 states before he sold the chain in 1999.  I found the 7 states, but was short 7 locations.

This particular hotel is located in the Cleveland, Ohio, suburb of Middleburg Heights.  It was built in 1989 and was sold sometime before 1998 when Signature Inn's website debuted.

Now with this new discovery, that leaves 6 more locations that I have to find.

courtesy of at

Signature Inn Terre Haute, IN

Please note...this is a location that I have not visited (at least, not yet anyway).

aerial imagery courtesy of Bing Maps
map graphic courtesy of at

Signature Inn's Terre Haute hotel joined the chain in 1987.  It would be one of four hotels added to the chain that year and was the only hotel at the time that wasn't built as a Signature Inn.  This hotel was built in 1975 and I have not yet been able to find out what brand it carried back then.

courtesy of Vigo County, Indiana, auditor

The hotel underwent renovations in 1987 when it became part of the Signature Inn family.  The "Signature" canopy was added to the hotel and it appears that most of the rest of the building underwent some exterior work to make the hotel look somewhat like the rest of the locations in terms of the brickwork and the metal cladding that extended down the sides of the building.
courtesy of Vigo County, Indiana, auditor
courtesy of Vigo County, Indiana, auditor
This ended up being the largest hotel in the chain, containing 150 rooms.  Their second largest would only contain 137 (and that was the chain's first hotel; later locations would average 115 rooms)
aerial imagery courtesy of Bing Maps
The hotel was sold in December 2005.  It likely never wore the Jameson Inn banner.  Doing an internet search on the address it appears this hotel flew a few different flags over the years, including America's Best Value Inn & Suites, Clarion Inn & Suites, and Best Western (as shown in the aerial views).  It is currently a Red Roof Inn & Suites.

sources for this post include the Vigo County, Indiana, auditor's website, archived at, archived at, and imagery found through Bing Maps.

Photographs of other Signature Inn locations can be found here: Formerly Signature Inn by Ryan on Flickr

Friday, April 1, 2016

Signature Inn Elkhart, Indiana

aerial imagery courtesy of Bing Maps
map graphic courtesy of at
Signature Inn's Elkhart hotel is located in northern Indiana just off the toll road, about 30 minutes away from its South Bend location that opened a year prior.  This was one of three hotels built in 1987 and featured 125 rooms.
an overview of the hotel

The hotel became a Jameson Inn in 2006.  It was sold in December of 2012 and became a Baymont Inn & Suites.

Like many of the other hotels, this one had some exterior painting done to it.  I really like the reddish brown color they used.  The canopy, however, still retains the skylights and light fixtures.
A shot of the canopy
I like how the reddish-brown looks in the sun
And just for fun, this last photo:
taken as I was preparing to re-enter the toll road

sources for this post include the Elkhart County, Indiana, auditor's website, archived at, archived at, and imagery found through Bing Maps.

Photographs not accredited in their captions were taken by me.  These and additional photos can be found here: Formerly Signature Inn by Ryan on Flickr