Got an esoteric interest like Signature Inn? Start a blog!

Hotels are pretty dull today. They all look the same! That was less the case when I was a kid in the 90s, though, and I found that Signature Inns around the midwest featured architecture that I now think of as iconic. With its peaked roof, massive Porte Cochere, two-story lobby, and skylit canopy, the typical Signature Inn stuck out amongst its boxy peers. The chain employed the same kind of identifiable design language I identified in Marsh supermarkets built during the same era, and recognizing them from the back seat of my parents’ cars felt like I was competing in a multi-city scavenger hunt.

Muncie’s old Signature Inn, as it appeared on May 17, 2023.

Signature Inn was founded by John Bontreger in 19781. The chain first targeted business travelers around central Indiana and quickly opened hotels in northwest Indianapolis, Fort Wayne, Castleton, and Lafayette before it came to Muncie in 19842. Along with several others along West Bethel Pike close to the interstate, the 102-room hotel was one of the first to put the nail in the coffin of older local establishments like the Hill Top

By the 1990s, the Signature Inn brand had grown to twenty-eight locations from Cleveland, Ohio, to Bettendorf, Iowa3. A lot happened between the chain’s founding and its sale in 19994, and thirteen years later, Muncie’s became a Baymont Inn. That’s all I’m going to say about it, though, since a blogger named Ryan already wrote the comprehensive history of the chain

This ad for Signature Inn appeared on page 30 of the November 6, 1988 edition of the Muncie Star.

I don’t know Ryan’s last name. For all I know, Ryan might be his last name! Regardless, I stumbled across his blog, aptly titled The History of Signature Inn, a couple years ago. I read the entire thing -all fifty posts he published from 2015 to 2017- in one glorious, decadent binge. Although he and I had never met, his blog answered every question I ever had about the place. As an obsessive person with byzantine interests, I had many.

Ryan focused on Signature Inn because he remembered staying at one near Cincinnati with his parents in 1991. Something about the place stood out to him as a kid- it was that simple. Later, he went to a rebranded Signature Inn in Canton before he eventually got a job within fifteen minutes of third as an adult. He was hooked and had no other choice than to learn more. Thankfully, Ryan was productive about his passion. He decided to write about them and publish his work so lunatics like me could use it for our own research.

This ad for Signature Inn appeared on page 60 of the January 13, 1989 edition of the Evansville Courier and Press.

Compulsions like Ryan’s are precisely what fuel this blog. Do you have your own cryptic obsession or passion? Start a blog, I say! You’ll be surprised to see how many people respond if you put yourself out there. I certainly was when I started mine.

You don’t have to be a good writer to share your interests. Blogging will help you develop those skills and find your voice. I write a lot differently today than when I first started ranting about courthouses nine years ago. I’m constantly learning.

Muncie’s old Signature Inn, as it appeared on May 17, 2023.

I started this blog to delve into specific, niche topics that interested me like courthouses, schoolhouses, and other old elements of the built environment. That forced me to improve my research skills, which became a continuous journey. One of the best parts about that expedition is the chance this blog offers to connect with like-minded people who share my interests. They often add to my expertise through their own knowledge in comments and camaraderie! I was shocked to see how many people are intrigued by the same things I am, and you will be too once you start your own blog.

This advertisement appeared on page 36 of the May 5, 1989 edition of the Indianapolis Star.

If you’re here for the local history, you can read the rest of Muncie’s Signature Inn story here, thanks to Ryan. He, Jim Grey of Down the Road, J.P. Cavanaugh of J.P.’s Blog, and BrandiB of Make the Journey Fun influenced my decision to start this blog, and maybe this post will convince you to do the same. I hope it does, and I hope you comment with a link once you do. I’d love to read what you put out there.

Sources Cited
1 Douglas, B. (1984, June 10). Business Comes First. The Muncie Star. p. 30.
2 New 102-Room Motel Opens Today (1984, May 25). The Muncie Star. p. 23.
3 Ryan (2015, June 12). Signature Inn’s History, Part One. The History of Signature Inn. Web. Retrieved May 17, 2023. 
4 Francisco, B. (1999, May 20). Signature Inns sold to Georgia chain. The Muncie Star Press. p. 11.

One thought on “Got an esoteric interest like Signature Inn? Start a blog!

  1. I had always assumed that the chain was bigger than it evidently was. I was at the Castleton location in northeast Indianapolis a handful of times in connection with a group that did some weekend events there. I had never thought about the iconic nature of the architecture, but see that you are right.

    Thanks for the shout out. It’s true that it’s rewarding to find that others are interested in oddball stuff that interests me. I enjoy coming here so keep up the great work.


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