Great Moments in Travel History – December 2015
The Château Frontenac Hotel in Quebec City, Canada opened its doors on December 20, 1893. Named for the governor of the New France colony in America in the 17th century, the luxury, castle-like hotel has grown from 170 rooms to its current 613 rooms.
The Wright Brothers made the first controlled, powered, heavier-than-air flight on December 17, 1903, in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina.
The Palace Hotel, which survived the 1906 San Francisco earthquake only to be consumed by the fires in the quake’s aftermath, reopened its doors on December 19, 1909. It is currently a Starwood Luxury Collection property.
The Boeing Airplane Co. B-1 mail plane, the first Boeing-designed commercial aircraft, made its first flight on December 27, 1919.
The Drake Hotel in Chicago opened its doors on December 31, 1920. The luxury hotel is a longtime rival of the historic Palmer House hotel in Chicago.
The first ever motel opened its doors on December 12, 1925 in San Luis Obispo, California. The Milestone Mo-Tel, now known as the Motel Inn of San Luis Obispo, was built by Arthur Heineman who combined the words “motor” and “hotel” as sales of automobiles began to take off. Heineman’s motel was notable for a sign that changed the first letter so it effectively alternated the words “hotel” and “motel.” Each of the 160 guests had an individual chalet, each with a bathroom, telephone, and garage.
The attack on Pearl Harbor by the Empire of Japan occurred on December 7, 1941, bringing the United States into World War II.
On December 7, 1946, the deadliest hotel fire in U.S. history occurred at the Winecoff Hotel, now known as the Ellis Hotel, in Atlanta, Georgia. One hundred and nineteen people perished in the blaze.
The Park Slope Plane Crash occurred on December 16, 1960, when United Airlines Flight 826, a Douglas DC-8-11, collided with Trans World Airlines Flight 266, a Lockheed L-1049 Super Constellation, over New York City. All 128 passengers onboard the aircraft, as well as six people on the ground, lost their lives. The incident became the first time in history that a black box was used to provide details in a plane crash investigation.
John F. Kennedy International Airport, originally dedicated as New York International Airport and later known as Idlewild Airport, was renamed on December 24, 1963, a month after President Kennedy’s assassination.
Eastern Air Lines Flight 401, a Lockheed L-1011-1 Tristar jet, crashed in the Florida Everglades on December 29, 1972. One hundred and one people died in what was the first wide-body aircraft crash.
Apollo 8, the first manned mission to the moon, launched on December 21, 1968, from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
After a dispute with hotel management over medical care and salaries, three disgruntled employees set a fire in the Hotel Dupont Plaza in San Juan, Puerto Rico, on December 31, 1986. It was the worst hotel fire in Puerto Rican history, with 97 people losing their lives in the New Year’s Eve blaze. The hotel is now the San Juan Marriott Resort and Stellaris Casino.
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