Entrance sign, the Madonna Inn.

Alex Madonna dies; pioneering themed motel will continue in the pink

Alex Madonna, 85, creator and owner of the Madonna Inn, San Luis Obispo, California, died April 22 of a heart attack. Madonna, a successful rancher, road builder and philanthropist, opened his unique Madonna Inn in 1958. He is said to have designed the first creatively-themed rooms on a napkin. His wife did the decorating.

The Madonna Inn is important to roadsiders as one of the earliest and most enduring theme room motels. The Madonna Inn of today has 109 suites, from rock-carved Caveman rooms to 2-story cupid hideaways. Many rooms are rendered in bright pinks, and splashes of pink can be found on the Inns signs, decorations and even on the soda machines.

Many independent motels and several chains have been inspired by the Madonna Inn to try their own hand at themed-rooms as visitor magnets.

The Inn is also known for its magical waterfall urinal in the public men's room. The urinal, which triggers a sheet of water to fall 8 feet when an electric eye beam is broken, is an internationally known landmark.

Alex Madonna was buried at Old Mission Cemetery, after two horses pulled a historic hearse containing his casket through town.

100 Madonna Rd, San Luis Obispo, CA
W. of US Hwy 101 on Madonna Rd.
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