A Brief History of B&B (Bed and Breakfast) Lodging

Post 11 of 44

Bed and breakfast


The B&B arrangement is a very old one. The concept has existed in one form or another since the beginning of man. Monasteries served as bed and breakfasts for travelers, and in some cases still do.  Before the 20th century, it was quite normal for country travellers to spend the night at a private house rather than an inn, and this custom persists in many parts of the world. However, prior to the 19th century, this was strictly an informal arrangement constrained by acquaintance and social rank; a doctor might stay with a doctor or pharmacist, while a nobleman would stay with the local gentry.

Bed and breakfasts have been very popular with the traveling public in Europe for years.  The abbreviation of `B&B’ on roadside signs first became popular in the British Isles – typically with a detachable ‘Vacancies’ sign swinging below.  Tourists will see B&B signs in many windows there. The term “bed and breakfast” is not used in many other countries. Terms such as paradors, pensions, gasthaus, minskukus, shukukos and pousados are used to describe what Americans and English-speaking Europeans think of as a bed and breakfast.

The United States also has a history of bed and breakfasts dating back to the time of early settlers. As the pioneers traveled the trails and roads across this county, they sought a safe refuge in homes, inns and taverns. In fact, some of those historic accommodations now serve as B&Bs.

During the Great Depression, many people opened their homes to travelers to bring in some additional money for the family. The term “boarding house” was used at this time. After the Depression, this type of lodging declined and many people had the idea they were just for low-income travelers or drifters. In the early fifties, people may remember the term “tourist home” being used. This too was essentially a form of bed and breakfast. Once motels were built on the new highways, they were soon forgotten.

In large part because of the number of Americans traveling to Europe in recent years and rediscovering B&Bs, there has been an exponential increase in interest in the U.S. Today, the B&B is not viewed as a low-cost lodging facility but as an attractive alternative to the typical standard chain hotel or motel room. Today, some bed and breakfasts offer amenities not unlike those found at the most upscale hotels in the world.



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